A €1.1 million reuse project, delivered across five housing estates in London between 2014 and 2017, has now come to an end, and preliminary results have been released.
Social and environmental regeneration charity, Groundwork London, delivered the pioneering project in partnership with the London Community Resource Network and Middlesex University, focusing on the key challenge that, despite efforts to engage residents, reuse on housing estates remains low and fly-tipping of bulky waste high.
Co-funded by the European Commission’s LIFE+ Programme, the REPURPOSE project sought to tackle this challenge by helping locals harness the furniture reuse potential of their estates, establishing community-led reuse hubs called The Loops.
Loops were created by residents on estates in Hackney, Barnet, Hammersmith, Lambeth and Islington. They transformed redundant spaces on their estates into hubs for collecting, refurbishing and redistributing household items. All revenue from the furniture sales went back into the project to provide skills training, volunteering and employment opportunities for local people.
The preliminary results suggest that locally-focused initiatives encouraging reuse, like the Loops, can go a long way to reducing furniture waste at the source, changing behaviours and delivering other social benefits besides.
Key outcomes included:
- Over 7,000 bulky items were removed from the waste stream. 50% of items were collected directly from residents, and 30% from fly-tipping. 70% of items needed no work done, or only a light clean.
- Over 3,650 low-cost furniture items were provided for low income and vulnerable families.
- Local volunteering and employment opportunities were provided for 65 volunteers
- The project helped change behaviour towards waste, with surveys showing that residents who engaged with the project were less likely to ‘put a reusable item outside’, more concerned about reusable items going to waste, and more likely to ‘reuse more, throw fewer items away, fly-tip less or recycle more’.
Learnings about the benefits of addressing reuse in housing estates and urban areas are summarised in a ‘layman’s report’ on the project, which is available online along with other resources such as an implementation guide and toolkit: www.repurpose.london/pages/repurposeresources.
Rebekah Phillips from Groundwork London, who worked extensively on the project, said: “The preliminary results indicate that the social benefits of re-use are as valuable as the environmental and economic. The resources generated by the REPURPOSE project contain a wealth of information to help housing providers and local residents across the UK and Europe bring some of these benefits to their own communities.”
Stephen Matthews, Estate Reuse Coordinator of Hackney’s The Loop @ Pembury, said: “It’s all about helping people think twice. If someone sees us sell the table they fly-tipped, after just a little clean up, then they wonder, ‘Hold on, why did I throw that away? I could fix it up or sell it myself’. We are demonstrating the potential of reuse at The Loops, changing perceptions of what waste is.”
The need for and potential of greater reuse is certainly not restricted to housing estates. Best estimates suggest that in 2010/11, across the UK, 1.5 million tonnes of bulky waste was collected at kerbside or taken to Household Waste & Recycling Centres (HWRCs). Of all bulky waste in the UK, around 42% consists of furniture – 670,000 tonnes of mostly sofas, wardrobes, and beds.
Research conducted by the Waste & Resources Action Programme shows that just under half the furniture taken to HWRCs, and 45% of furniture collected at kerbside, is reusable in its current condition or with slight repair.
For more information about the Repurpose project, please contact Programme Manager at Groundwork London: Hannah.Baker@groundwork.org.uk / 020 7960 2683 or visit www.repurpose.london.