Furniture repair, re-use and recycle network brings benefits for families, councils and the environment
The National, by Greg Russell
A unique Scottish consortium that delivers quality, affordable furniture to people in need and which could save local authorities millions of pounds has been described as “the best thing to happen to social enterprises in decades”.
It has been developed by Community Resources Network Scotland (CRNS) – a national 120-member network of social enterprises and charities supporting third-sector re-use, repair and recycling projects across Scotland and turning over a total of more than £63 million.
All its members share a determin-ation to reduce waste and to create real social, environmental and economic benefits at a community level.
CRNS is the lead organisation in the CRNS Re-use Consortium, which supports 24 local authority areas in providing key household items through the Scotland Excel framework, including beds, sofas, cookers, fridges and washing machines. David Wood, the body’s CEO, explained: “Previously, local authorities purchased new furniture through the Scotland Excel framework and never bought re-used items.
“The reason this is so different is it takes the re-use sector to another level and puts it on the framework along with new furniture providers.
“If a local authority is looking to provide furniture for a client family in need who don’t have anything … if they purchase re-use furniture, then it will be cheaper for the council.
“It will mean that the products are being kept in circulation and not going to landfill. It will also mean the authorities should be able to support more people in need, because their budgets can be extended.”
Wood said the re-used furniture could be of better quality than new, and the whole system was beneficial for council budgets and communities.
“They pick up sofas, tables, chairs, beds from households when people are either moving house, or buying new items, or if there’s been a death and the furniture is no longer required. If it’s of an acceptable standard, the re-use organisation then sells that on in their shops.
“These social enterprises support their local community, like volunteering, or offering employment for people with disabilities or dependencies, or difficulties getting on to the employment ladder.
“The quality of the product is often of a higher standard than the new, because the new is basic – a thin mattress or a small, thin sofa – whereas re-use furniture could be a sofa that cost £800 new, but it’s now been bought for £80 or £100 because it has been used.”
Wood added that there are other advantages of utilising the Scottish Welfare Fund to provide re-used furniture, including speedy and efficient local delivery of furniture bought locally; encouraging people on low incomes to consider re-use options in the future, and; potentially helping to alleviate poverty by avoiding weekly payment stores and pay-day lenders.
Continued use of local social enterprises would also help them become more self-sustaining, enable them to thrive, as well as being an integral part of the community network that provided opportunities for employment, volunteering and support to those that fall outside of the traditional public and private sector employment networks.
Wood said he hoped that re-using furniture would become as popular as recycling in general.
“Everyone knows what recycling is now, whereas 10 or 15 years ago people weren’t really doing recycling.
“We’re funded through Zero Waste Scotland and we’re trying to get re-use into people’s minds so that in communities where there’s not a lot of money, or families where there aren’t huge budgets, they realise that they can actually buy re-used – and that often it can be extremely good.”