In every corner of Wales for over 20 years, social enterprise has been diverting resources from destruction (landfill and incineration) and creating local jobs, local training and local services. The social economy is better able to do this as it must use its profits to further local wellbeing goals, instead of shareholder dividends, which often leave Wales for good.
In terms of the ability to capture bulky items, furniture and electrical goods, these ‘preparation for reuse’ organisations (aka social PfR) in Wales play an essential role, with their longstanding community roots and people-contact. They are able to reach deep into communities and retrieve resources that would have otherwise been disposed of as waste.
In CEW’s snapshot report to the Welsh Government (2019), a Social PfR sector of over 40 organisations was highlighted. Many of these are now members of CEW with more potentially suitable to join. There is a momentum for a People’s Circular Economy to help reboot communities post-COVID19.
The need for a national strategy
The July 2018, consultants Resource Futures reportPreparing for re-use: a roadmap for a paradigm shift in Wales (funded by the Welsh Government and commissioned by WRAP) identifies the vital strategic role that Preparation for Reuse (PfR) will play in the coming years as Wales moves towards its published Zero Waste target by 2050. In particular, it recognises that it is community organisations - with their very diverse objectives assisting the survival of communities in various ways - that are the main players in PfR and the payback for Government through supporting the sector to grow to meet the greater future demands.
The report shows that local authorities reported that 44,000 tonnes p.a. were then reused. This represents 2.8 per cent of the total recyclable material reported. 10,286 tonnes of this are In-scope Reusable Items (IRI’s), currently 0.6 per cent of the reported municipal recycling rate.
While the surface has been scratched and there is a real opportunity for significant expansion if these efforts can be better coordinated and supported, to be scaled-up to contribute towards the ambitious recycling targets set by Welsh Government.
There is previous evidence of the contribution that community-owned organisations can play. Between 1998 and 2013, through the coordination of an umbrella organisation Cylch, these organisations were able to share skills and knowledge.
Circular Economy Wales is positioned to provide the expertise for established and emerging community organisations to extend social and environmental services, through application of new business models and opportunities. In doing, CEW provides a mechanism for these organisations to become more financially robust and sustainable.
Consultants Resource Futures summarised the estimated impact from preparation for re-use activities on IRIs, showing cumulative values from 2019 to 2050. If the maximum amount of PfR which is technically feasible is carried out, then between 2019 and 2050 some 1,770,000 tonnes of material will be reused. This will effectively double current PfR rates and lead to a saving of 2,810,000 tonnes CO2e of greenhouse gases. This will make a significant contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases required in the 2019 plan for decarbonisation of the Welsh economy: Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales.
The preparation for re-use agenda has never been more important. It ensures resource efficiency, where materials and items are retained and circulated within the economy for longer, often being passed on from one owner/user to another. This prevents materials and items from becoming waste. Using material resources efficiently reduces the need for virgin materials and the pressure to harvest or extract resources. This helps ease pressure on ecosystems in Wales and beyond, making a significant contribution to the protection of biodiversity.
Reducing the harvesting and extraction of materials and their subsequent transport, processing and manufacture also avoid a lot of energy consumption, including fossil fuels. In this way current and future Social PfR models being developed by CEW, contribute to the decarbonisation of the Welsh economy, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and helping to tackle climate change.
The target materials in this 180,000-tonne category (which is 12 per cent of total waste arising) are:
- Hard and soft furniture (40,000 tonnes or 22.2 per cent)
- Textiles (45,000 tonnes or 25 per cent)
- Large and small Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) (35,000 tonnes or 19.4 per cent)
- Wood (40,000 tonnes or 22.2 per cent)
- Carpets and underlay (10,000 tonnes or 6 per cent)
- Other (about 10,000 tonnes or 6 per cent)