Researching reuse opportunities for Somerset Waste Partnership

Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) commissioned our team to research existing community reuse activity in the Somerset region with a view to increasing levels of reuse by residents across the County.

A horizon scan of local and international reuse examples enabled us to research a range of relevant concepts. These were then aligned against the Somerset context in order to find key ideas that could offer best local value.

Overall, the project sought a range of potential reuse options that would support the wealth of community groups that exist across the four districts in Somerset, whilst also adding value to Somerset Waste Partnership through increased landfill diversion.

Objectives

Both the Government’s new Resources and Waste strategy and Circular Economy Package draw attention to the need to eliminate avoidable waste and preserve material resources. A more circular economy that includes repair and reuse activities will be essential to ensure items remain in use for as long as possible.

Somerset is home to a wealth of community groups, many of whom are already contributing to the reuse agenda, spread across a large and predominantly rural area. Whilst improving reuse was a key objective, Somerset Waste Partnership was keen that any suggested solutions would clearly support and enhance these existing community activities.

Approach

Through researching a number of established national and local reuse initiatives our team were able to draw out opportunities, gaps and limiting factors for consideration. This was combined with local contextual knowledge to select those most likely suited to the set up in Somerset.

Several national projects were contacted as part of a stakeholder engagement piece to gather granular understandings around how each project works, the full scope of their activities, and any notable barriers and lessons learned. Interviews were also conducted with a number of local community groups to ensure we understood the context within which activities are currently running – where are the shortfalls, what are the common challenges, and what support would be useful to add real value.

Results from the stakeholder engagement piece and desk research were used to build understanding of a suitable model for the SWP context.

 

Gaps and opportunities

 

Outcomes

The following themes were identified from the research which provided insights to the model review process:

  • A range of items exist across the network that are not fit for reuse or recycling in their current format but could have value in other forms.
  • Several groups indicated that they experience resource shortages such as skills, transportation and/or space.
  • Many organisations operate at maximum capacity and so have little additional ability to consider opportunities beyond essential day to day activities.
  • It appeared that community groups were not regularly communicating across the wider network and which restricts opportunity to share knowledge and skills between both groups and individuals.
  • A number of projects have closed in recent years, so there is a need to support community organisations in their existing work to help prevent future closures.
  • Access to transport is a recurring theme, be it public access to vehicles to get items to/from the correct point for reuse, or for community groups to move items around to facilitate reuse and/or repair.

Drawing together all research findings, we identified four specific models that we felt had value to boost and support reuse in Somerset. Each of these models was then compared to SWP’s needs, drawing on the key research themes previously identified. This was used to create an indicative score to inform suitability for purpose in the SWP context.

Three models, representing low-, medium- and high-cost options were then identified, with a brief description and indicative set up costs provided.   SWP were happy with all three options and are now considering the next steps.

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