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Bulky Waste Reuse Study Published by Ministers Phil Hogan and Alex Attwood

A report has been released recently by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan and Minister for the Environment, Alex Attwood which investigates the feasibility of an all island approach to the management of bulky waste reuse. In response to initiatives established under the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) and the work of the North South Market Development Steering Group (NSMDSG), bulky waste was identified as an area of mutual interest.

This study was commissioned and managed by rx3, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government programme to develop markets for recyclable materials in Ireland.

Download this report in full here

The study is part funded by the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DOENI) and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) and is in conjunction with WRAP NI. 

The aim of the study was to investigate current bulky waste management practices on the island and examine the opportunity to increase reuse of bulky waste items delivered to Public Civic Amenity (CA)/Recycling Centre (RC) sites and review the viability of diverting reusable items from CA/RC sites to a network of reuse organisations (RO) for resale.

A review of legislation in the study demonstrated that ‘Reuse’ is considered prevention and is not subject to waste legislative requirements but that ‘Preparing for Reuse’ is considered a waste activity and comes under the waste legislative system where the relevant authorisations are required. Reuse items not requiring repair through a waste-related operation would be considered a product and therefore not subject to TFS regulations. Therefore direct reuse activity may be of greater interest to organisations looking to cross border reuse initiatives.

The study found that there is potential to increase bulky waste reuse through collection at the civic amenity network on the island. The bulky items of greatest consideration for reuse are furniture, WEEE and bicycles. The collection and storage method is critical to the end use potential of an item. Based on estimates developed in the study the all island potential reusable bulky waste is just less than 30,000 tonnes and equates to over 1.2 million items.

The sales value of these potentially reusable items is estimated to be €60 million/£48 million per annum. In addition there is other direct and indirect value to be gained through employment and social employment, and community and environment benefits. There are a range of different end markets for reused goods such as vintage, green, fashionable, thrifty but the reuse market is principally driven by the demand for low cost goods by those with limited incomes. The study found that there is demand for reusable and in particular reusable low cost goods.

The preferred reuse option chosen by CA/RCs surveyed during the study was that items for reuse are segregated by CA/RC staff and collected by a third party reuse specialist for sale off-site. This option is considered to be low cost and least effort. Requirements for this option include a shipping container, marketing and communication, and education and awareness which could be acquired for €2,250/£1,800. 

This is also the most common method of CA/RC reuse observed in NI and ROI to date. A bicycle reuse demonstration study carried out during the project showed that the preferred option was easily implemented.

There are approximately 8 community and social enterprise sector (C&SES) reuse organisations in ROI and more than 200 charity shops. Of these 8 accept and sell furniture and or electrical items. There are approximately 5 C&SES reuse organisations in NI and more than 150 charity shops, of which 5 accept bulky waste for reuse. It was found that the majority of C&SES organisations are clustered in major cities but there is a better geographical spread of charity shops.

The reuse organisations indicated that they are interested in working with CA/RC sites and have the capacity and demand to accept more items, to provide training to CA/RC staff, most are willing to collect items from the CA/RCs, and willing to pay for transport/collection. However, they would want to cherry pick items to ensure that they select quality items for resale and/or refurbishment. It was indicated that usually greater than 90% of items collected are reused.

In the case where a reuse initiative is not feasible at a CA/RC, a local authority can opt for a comprehensive reuse communications initiative. This could be as simple as listing different reuse organisations, charity shops, websites, regular car boot sales and encouraging people to consider reuse rather than recycling or disposing of an item.

A demonstration study was carried out between Fingal County Council and the Rediscovery Centre on a bicycle reuse initiative. The initiative was carried out in line with the preferred reuse option where items are segregated for reuse by CA/RC site staff and collected by a third party reuse specialist for sale off-site. The initiative was implemented at low cost and was successful as the relevant systems, paperwork, communications and training were put in place before the scheme commenced. The bicycle reuse scheme is now in full time operation, on average ten to fifteen bikes are collected for reuse per month.

View details and a video about this scheme here

An all-island reuse initiative between CA/RCs and reuse organisations is feasible, however it is recommended to progress the initiative further:

  • There is a requirement for a regulatory or policy driver to further stimulate the reuse of bulky wastes
  • A reuse protocol be developed to assist CA/RC owners, operators and reuse organisations
  • A reuse certification system and quality mark and/or reuse logo should be developed to allow reuse organisations show that their products meet high quality standards
  • The demand for a training course/information session for local authorities and reuse organisations on the island of Ireland be assessed
  • There is clarification provided for the owners and operators of CA/RCs in both jurisdictions on the implications of reuse and preparing for reuse activities on the facility authorisation
  • The existing level of funding is maintained and additional funding is made available to support CA/RCs and reuse organisations

Download a copy of the full report here

Source: rX3 - Bulky Waste Reuse Study Published by Ministers Phil Hogan and Alex Attwood