The start of 2016 saw a lot of reuse activity: WRAP continued to add useful guidance to their suite of How-to-Guides, publishing a ‘How to Procure Reuse Services at HWRCs’ and adding a ‘Reuse Shops Overview’ to the How to Reuse at HWRCs webpage. This is a useful document for anyone wanting to start or expand their Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) reuse shop; providing information to help develop the business case and identify what you can expect to achieve. It’s well worth a read. Operational improvements need the support of good communications and the WRAP ‘How to Communicate Reuse and Write a communication plan’, should help to do just that.
The Scottish Government’s circular economy strategy, ‘Making Things Last’ is the platform Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) is using to boost reuse activity. In 2016, ZWS supported Remade in Edinburgh to open another reuse hub, the Edinburgh Remakery. This is on top of the 59 Revolve certified shops that meet the criteria for quality and customer service in second hand stores. ZWS also published ‘Repair and Share’ guidance which it is hoped will help other organisations develop reuse hubs in future. In a similar vein, use of online reuse and sharing platforms, for example WARPit, has accelerated, particularly in the Scottish Public Sector in the last couple of years. Scotland continues to lead the way in practical and financial support for reuse, we hope that it continues well into 2017 and beyond.
In Northern Ireland, local government reorganisation has meant the focus for local authorities has been on recycling collections and harmonising services. However capital funding has been available through the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for collection vehicles (for bulky waste) and reuse containers at HWRCs, both to preserve the quality of items for reuse. A partnership involving DAER, local authorities and other organisations, has developed an action plan for central and local government to manage municipal waste. One action is to develop business models to support the development of reuse networks across Northern Ireland, so we look forward to seeing the outputs of that activity. Another development is that CRNI (Community Reuse Network Ireland) was awarded Environmental Protection Agency Ireland funding to explore the concept of a quality mark for reuse. Again we look forward to hearing the results of this in 2017.
In Wales, there has been less national intervention and advice this year but grassroots organisations continue to expand and evolve. For example, Newport Wastesavers is now successfully operating the shop at the Newport HWRC.
CIWM published a ‘Reuse in the UK and Ireland ‘state of the nations’ report’ in October 2016, which included several recommendations including advocating a more collaborative approach. A more robust policy framework is likely to be needed to mainstream reuse. The topic was included in Professor Margaret Bates’ inaugural speech as CIWM President, suggesting it is a key aim as President to explore how CIWM can act upon some of the recommendations in the report.
The sector itself is still in relatively good health. Whilst some smaller reuse organisations have closed in recent years, others are growing by diversifying their business models and participating in large contracts and partnerships. However, it is not easy; operational costs continue to increase, for example the minimum wage; yet costs to the customer, particularly local authority customers, has stagnated.
So, what is the future for reuse? It isn’t yet mainstreamed but with repair cafés and HWRC reuse shops popping up throughout the country, an entrepreneurial third sector, online shops and swap sites continuing to thrive, we are at least moving in the right direction. New activities are likely to be driven by the third sector and the private sector rather than through central Government and WRAP but some local authorities are helping by developing their role and the devolved administrations continue to champion reuse.
This article was published in the MRW Handbook 2017.