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Community recycling groups could benefit from Big Society Bank

Community recycling groups could be among those benefiting from the Government’s Big Society Bank, under plans outlined by the Cabinet Office.

Under the proposals, the Bank would operate as an independent organisation from Government, which would invest in a “spectrum” of equity, debt and quasi-equity in intermediaries, but would not directly invest in individual social service providers.

 The document also outlined key Bank objectives, which included supporting the development of “community-led social enterprise initiatives”. London Community Resource Network (LCRN) chief executive Matthew Thomson told MRW that this could, “in theory” include waste and recycling groups.

He said: “Of course, it is still unclear whether this will actually be a Bank, and as a wholesale financier it is not clear exactly how the money will reach the front line.  There is also no clarity yet on its relationship to the Green Investment Bank, or any explicit mention of environmental purpose in its remit, so there is a risk that our sector falls between stools.”

Thomson added: “There is a challenge to develop investment-ready partnerships and proposals which satisfy the repayment terms of the Bank.  The investment terms will be crucial. In developing the London Reuse Network we found that it was difficult to make the model work with an equity or debt repayment term of less than six years.  

“Community recyclers have a big potential role in educating the public about the true value of resources and the true cost of ‘waste collection services’ – especially by passing savings and resource value back to communities.  Apart from better awareness, the role of hub organisations such as LCRN is crucial – as indicated in WRAP’s ‘Investment for Growth’ study last year.  We should therefore be supported in continuing to lead and enable such initiatives.”

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