Three inspiring third sector ‘waste projects’

[Guest post by Marc Owen, Policy Adviser, Waste Strategy - Policy and Processes, Defra]
Photos courtesy of Green-Works

Officials from the Defra Waste Programme recently visited three inspiring third sector projects in London.

Vital Regeneration works in London’s most deprived neighbourhoods, developing sustainable and effective social, environmental and economic programmes. We were shown their particularly impressive food waste collection service, which operates around a number of estates and high-rise buildings – where collections can often prove difficult to manage effectively. The food waste is composted nearby in two enclosed units known as rockets – we were very impressed with how this worked in such a small space and within such a built up area. The scheme covers 1,200 households, employs two local people and composts a tonne of food waste per week. The compost they create is used by Westminster Parks and also in a nearby community-owned growing site.

Staying Put Services was the second project we visited, based in the Kensington and Chelsea area. Their Furnish project collects unwanted furniture for redistribution and staff showed us around their extensive warehouse – more like a grotto full of (sometimes surprising) household items that had been donated. Their partnership with Shepherds Bush Housing Group ensures that the furniture goes to who need it most – people, for example, who might struggle to afford good quality new or second-hand furniture elsewhere. In the past year Furnish collected 170 tonnes of furniture and delivered to over 800 homes. Furthermore, this partnership offers financial/operational sustainability, something that can pose a problem for many third sector organisations.

Finally, we visited Green-Works, based in Stonebridge, who collect, refurbish and resell unwanted office furniture, and is the leading organisation in this field. We were shown round one of their two huge warehouses, full of furniture that had been recovered, was in the process of being expertly refurbished, and prepared for resale or redistribution. Green-Works has already been responsible for diverting over 60,000t of furniture from landfill, and also provides jobs and training to disadvantaged people (they have nationally helped more than 150 people find employment). Particularly impressive – and a source of pride for Green-Works – was its achievement in winning big contracts to work with HSBC and Barclays when they moved to Canary Wharf – where they were able to recover 12,000 desks for reuse or otherwise (in the case of the 2% of items they can’t reuse) recycling.

Defra officials were very impressed and inspired by seeing what these projects are able to deliver on the ground – not only in terms of diverting waste from landfill but in terms of engaging communities, and providing opportunities to the disadvantaged where these might otherwise not be available. There are many such organisations working across the country and you may be inspired to find out about who is working to make a difference in your area!! Finally, we would like to thank all of our hosts and the London Community Resource Network* for their efforts in organising such an interesting day.

* Matthew Thomson is the CEO of LCRN and a member of Defra’s Third Sector Advisory Board

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