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Bristol ReUse Network pilot project – rescues over 22 tonnes of re-usable items from going to waste


In collaboration with Bristol City Council, the Bristol ReUse Network has recently carried out a pilot scheme at St Phillips Household Waste Recycling Centre to recover re-useable items from the waste stream and divert them to its members. As a report from the pilot is published, we asked Ben Moss from Bristol Re-Use network to share his reflections on the project and hopes for the future.

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View from the entrance when users enter the site at Days Road; re-use operatives are often the first visible staff member who is seen by site-users

“In January 2016 visitors beheld a sight at the Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) in St Philips which many had hoped for, but none had seen- a section of the site dedicated to re-use of householders’ goods. Whereby the site offers a wide range of recycling options, no opportunity was available for re-use, which – as we all know – comes higher up the waste hierarchy; until the collaborative approach enabled by Bristol ReUse, the council, and Resource Futures was taken.

The idea was first mooted in the heady days of February 2014 at the gathering of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership at @tBristol following the announcement of the EU Green Capital award. Many have dreamt of re-use at the HWRC for years before this; however the Bristol Green Capital Partnership galvanised the wills and vision of those in the Resources Action Group, and simultaneously the formative Bristol ReUse.

Awarding of a Bristol 2015 Strategic Grant funded both a study in to the potential of re-use at the HWRC and a Network Development Manager for the Network; this catalysed both Bristol ReUse to formalise their engagement with the process, and a response from the council to allow a pilot project to be run on the HWRC site, initially planned from mid-January until mid-April 1e61d4_a6fc0840628d4065b3de758adecfe5642016. Bristol ReUse is a network of charities, social enterprises and organisations whose main focus is the re-use of materials with social and environmental capital maximised; the vision of the Network is for a city where all materials are valued for the precious resources that they are, supported by a wealth of re-use projects, places and opportunities throughout the city. The network collaborated on the project to ensure that different organisations were able to provide collections of re-usable materials from the HWRC as well as ensuring the presence of volunteers to staff the containers, and meet and greet the public to rescue re-usable items that would otherwise go to waste.

Re:Work, Bristol Wood Recycling Project, Children’s Scrapstore, SOFA Project, Emmaus, APE Project, Bristol Bike Project, and South Bristol Toy Library were the main benefactors of items (who passed on items through their individual enterprises); staffing was provided by the above organisations as well as tangentfield, the University of Bristol, and volunteers from further afield.

The project was a remarkable success – from an initial seed of an idea to a dynamic, evolving project with the participation of volunteers from all over the city, to great reception from those visiting the HWRC. Very quickly the shipping containers filled (one owned by Bristol ReUse, the other kindly loaned by Mobile Mini for the duration of the project), and the initial plans for emptying them had to quickly evolve as organisations responded to the surprisingly large amount of goods flowing in to the containers. The project was such a success that the council agreed to enable the continuation of the project until the start of June 2016.

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Chairs for sale from HWRC at Bristol Wood Recycling Project

Eye-catching figures and facts abound. In the initial 3 month trial period, 22 tonnes of materials were diverted in to the re-use economy, equivalent for 0.5% of total waste arisings at the HWRC (considering that the range of materials that could be collected were limited, this is not an insignificant figure); these generated at least £5000 worth of goods for the organisations involved. Over 40% of the staffing was made possible through volunteers (outside of the paid staff of Bristol ReUse Network’s organisations staffing the containers), demonstrating goodwill and enthusiasm for the project and the community sector’s ability to motivate individuals to participate in solutions for society’s challenges. As the trial continued in to June, more tonnes of waste was diverted to the benefit of Bristol’s social economy.

A comprehensive report of the experience has been released including suggestions to the council of how the project could continue. The drivers of the project remain uncontested: we have a statutory obligation to increase re-use of materials, particularly in respect to the waste hierarchy; however Bristol Council’s own targets for re-use and recycling necessitate such

A re-use worker standing next to the storage container for re-useable items

A re-use worker standing next to the storage container for re-useable items

an approach. Further to this however, there is a need to address society’s consumption of resources, and interventionist approaches to an otherwise instrumental experience at the HWRC can create behaviour change, particularly when associated with intrinsic-value led projects.

With the change of political climate since the new mayor has been in post, we are unsure of the role that the community sector holds in addressing the need for re-use at HWRCs. Certainly the council has expressed great commitment to re-use, and a re-use and recycling centre at Hartcliffe Way has been key in Mayor Reese’s pre-election pledges. Bristol ReUse Network remains committed in a vision of a holistic approach to addressing our waste in the city in response that can create behaviour change whilst at the same time creating both environmental and social capital within the city, and welcomes opportunities for exploring future developments. The legacy of Bristol ReUse’s leading of the pilot project of re-use at the HWRC is testament to the potential for such a dynamic model with great interventional impact that Bristol is rightly famous for.”

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