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How recycling charity Cambridge Re-Use has reduced city’s carbon footprint

A charity that helps people struggling on a low income to buy good-quality second-hand furniture is reaching out to green-minded volunteers in the city to join them following their climate impact report.

Cambridge Re-Use collects donated household goods from around Cambridge and sells them exclusively to people on a low income at affordable prices.

Now they have released a report that reveals how much their work is saving on carbon emissions – and they hope it will encourage links between them and other recycling organisations.

Gerry Cavander, a trustee of Cambridge Re-Use, with stock. Picture: Keith Heppell
Gerry Cavander, a trustee of Cambridge Re-Use, with stock. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cara Moorey, manager at Cambridge Re-Use, welcomed the report, saying: “We want to do even more to help those facing hard times and to save the planet – we do make a magical connection between waste and want, but we would very much welcome new volunteers who want to help save the planet by repairing and recycling white goods and furniture as the report suggests, which might be through office, skilled or creative work, for even a few hours a week”.

The Environmental Impact Report, created by a group of researchers brought together by the Cambridge Hub, calculated the carbon emissions saved as a result of the use of the second-hand goods the charity has sold in place of newly manufactured goods. Its findings showed around nine tonnes of furniture are saved from landfill per month by the charity, or 233kg a day.

Since April 2011, Cambridge Re-Use activities have reduced Cambridge’s carbon footprint by 829,648 to 1,080,179kg CO2. In other words, every month there is 10,774kg less carbon dioxide equivalents being released into the atmosphere. This effect is equivalent to having planted 5,931 to 7,722 trees.

Cambridge Re-Use volunteers (25432599)
Cambridge Re-Use volunteers (25432599)

Cambridge Re-Use trustee Gerry Cavander said: “We pride ourselves that the experience for people coming to our shop and being able to afford to buy the things we sell – because we are about half the price of a normal charity shop – is uplifting and confidence building for those people who are going through a tough time.

“But we also want to get more upcycling and recycling going and knowing we have proof that we are helping the planet is very morale boosting.

“We want to recruit people from the green side of Cambridge to bring them together and see if we can look for more synergies between us. For example white goods are a major problem – tonnes of cookers go to landfill at Amey Cespa and we are looking for an electrician so we can start a little cottage industry repairing cookers.”

The report was made possible by the Cambridge Hub which aims to support students to create positive social change to shape a better world in their communities through practical volunteering, skilled placements, project incubation and events.

It was based on analysis of sales data since 2011 and shows the significant impact on both carbon emissions and reduced quantities of goods going into landfill made by Cambridge Re-Use.

“With some help to repair items, we hope to keep even more from going to landfill”

The report also recommended that the charity does what it can to increase the repair of goods – particularly white goods and large items of furniture, each of which has a relatively high carbon footprint – to reduce the waste from goods it currently can’t sell.

Gerry added: “It would make a major contribution globally if every town and village had a proper upcycling system. Tying those figures together will help us talk to that community and help us coordinate our efforts to save the planet while supporting people who are hard up.

“The population of Cambridge is very generous and people do say to us that they don’t want items to go to landfill and they want it to go to good use.

“When we do have to go to the landfill site it is shocking to see all the furniture and white goods there. With some help to repair items, we hope to keep even more from going to landfill.”

Cambridge Re-Use offers a collection service for donations, which makes it easier for people to give away large items without having to transport it themselves.

Visit cambridgereuse.org.uk.

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