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Charity reuse cuts UK carbon emissions by 3.7 million tonnes

Reuse activity from UK charity shops helps to reduce CO2 emissions by around 3.7 million tonnes a year, according to a new study.

The research, ‘Measuring the social value of charity shops… Giving something back’, carried out by the think-tank Demos and supported by the Charity Retail Association, said the carbon emissions saved are roughly equivalent to the entire carbon footprint of Iceland.

It states: “Charity shops provide significant environmental benefits, providing citizens with somewhere to donate their unwanted goods, rather than simply throw them away, and encouraging reuse of goods.”

It outlined an initiative in 2012 where the charity South Bucks Hospice (SBH), which has seven shops in total, teamed up with Buckinghamshire County Council and waste management company FCC Environmental to run two of FCC’s recycling centres.

‘Reuse Champions’, were designated at both sites to identify resaleable items, which are sold at SBH’s onsite reuse shops. Within the first seven months, 33,512 items were sold.

SBH director David Brodala said a strong relationship was built up with local residents, which increased recycling behaviour in the community.

The report said: “All four stakeholders gain from the partnership: the county council reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill, FCC reduces its costs, local residents benefit from bargain goods and funds are raised for the hospice.”

The news comes after some charity textile collectors said they were struggling to compete with commercial collectors.

Paul Ozanne, national recycling co-ordinator of Salvation Army Trading Company, told MRW: “A challenge in recent years has been local authorities getting increasingly swayed by the high prices per tonne offered by commercial collectors, making it very difficult for charity collectors to mount competitive bids for local authority contracts.”

He added: “Charity collectors cannot compete with commercial collectors on this basis without making significant sacrifices to the amounts they donate to good causes.

“Our experience suggests the public like to donate their unwanted clothing and textile items to charities and healthy donation levels contribute significantly to recycling and waste reduction targets.”

Ozanne also suggested that increasingly local authority tenders are not taking into account the Social Value Act 2012, which obligates public services to consider how their services can benefit people living in the local community.

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