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Think outside the recycling box: Re-use Matters

If there is to be ambition in DEFRA’s Waste Prevention Plan, and a drive to create a UK circular economy to support growth, the UK’s Furniture Re-use Network suggests that DEFRA needs to work alongside other Departments and think outside the recycling box and embrace the social and economic value and benefit that waste prevention and reuse offers to help regenerate the ailing UK economy.

With over 25 years’ experience of working across various policy agendas, FRN is calling on Government Departments such as Defra, to work with the FRN to address these issues and not miss the opportunity to produce complementary programmes to influence consumers and benefit society.

FRN wants to see a greater emphasis on policy that will produce numerous benefits and essentially provide a multitude of solutions and financial savings to wider political agendas. If we had waste policies that recognised the implications and opportunities that exist across different policy agendas, then the reuse sector will be one of the first sectors to offer real added social value and budgetary savings to central Departmental budgets and any public contract or waste prevention plan.

Craig Anderson, CEO of FRN said that “FRN is calling for a dramatic improvement in the connectivity of Government policy agendas such as waste prevention and social policy to address cross-disciplinary impacts that can save money and benefit people, while supporting their communities and their environment. This intervention is fundamental for the UK reuse market in the current economic and political climate”.

“There is a distinct risk that without political action, reuse will be used for profit alone, which may benefit the economy to some extent, but will bring greater negative economic impact to the poorest in society as they lose access to necessary goods and services. Having light-touch interest in reuse has not been conducive to making a real difference; it is only the reusers themselves who remain resolutely duty-bound to maintain their array of services for their local beneficiaries and for reuse’s wider impacts.”

The wider waste sector is beginning to understand that the reuse of products can bring huge benefits to society, the economy and the environment; but most policy decision makers are only seeing or wanting to achieve single issue benefits at any time. A single view on planning for waste prevention will result in many missed opportunities to bring about social, economic and environmental solutions through a single joined up venture.

Mr Anderson explained that “The majority of FRN members have been delivering real benefit and profound change in their local areas for up to 30 years, but more recently there has been an undervaluing of these benefits due to single interest and ill-conceived policies being pushed forward without due consideration for where savings and benefits can be made for wider political concerns. In addition we’ve had to battle other material commodity markets, welfare change impacts and an immovable waste infrastructure in the UK that has previously left reuse in the shadows and marginalised.”

FRN wants to know where social-value and welfare savings stand, when the limited aims of certain new reuse initiatives will be waste reduction and the need for corporate financial profit. With the majority of welfare cuts yet to be deployed by the UK Government, the needs and demands of those that our sector aims to help are going to increase and reuse services will be needed more than ever. We hope that DEFRA and other Departments will work with FRN so that in future we will have the right kind of quality assured reuse services in the UK and that these services address social and economic concerns and offer a means to beat austerity as well as meet any future waste prevention targets.

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