Office recycling scheme wins national recognition

A project which saw 150 tonnes of unwanted office equipment re-used and given a new lease of life has won a national award.

Brighton & Hove City Council has won the Local Authority Innovation category at the National Recycling Award for its pioneering City Re-use Project.

The project used Freegle, the free online reuse app, and led to more than 150 tonnes of unwanted office furniture and equipment, from desks and chairs to plastic in-trays to ring binders, being reused and given a new lease of life.

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The MRW National Recycling Awards recognise and celebrate best practice and innovation in recycling and waste management.

With 19 targeted categories, the awards cover every aspect of the recycling and waste management industry, from Food Waste Initiative to Recycling Excellence.

Praising the council for leading by example, the judges said the project emphasised the importance of reuse, by driving waste up the hierarchy with a scheme which could be replicated by others.

The awards were presented at a ceremony in London’s Park Lane Hotel.

The City Re-use Project began in 2016, when a thousand Brighton & Hove City Council staff left their former home at Kings House moving to refurbished, modern and sustainable offices at Hove Town Hall.

Keen to dispose of waste sustainably and ethically, the council appointed local reuse practitioner and campaigner Cat Fletcher as the city's first Reuse Manager.

Cat was tasked with an enormous project, to clear 100,000 square feet of office space and work with local organisations, community groups, businesses and charities to redistribute and reuse tens of thousands of items - from office furniture to the contents of a commercial kitchen! The Freegle app helped find new homes for most of the goods over 18 months.

The City Reuse Project supported more than 300 charities and community groups, 50 schools and even the Royal Sussex County Hospital received 30 tonnes of free furniture. It has resulted in some truly innovative and inspiring transformations - filing cabinets were turned into planters, in trays became sunglasses and a ceiling was created entirely from ring-binders!

Councillor Gill Mitchell, Chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee: “When we made the decision to leave Kings House and move around 1,000 staff to smaller premises we were committed to disposing of any unwanted furniture and equipment sustainably and ethically.

“Therefore we are extremely proud that our innovative Re-Use project has won national recognition and that local residents, universities, schools, hospitals, businesses charities and third sector organisations have all benefited from the scheme. We hope other business and local authorities will be encouraged to follow our lead with similar schemes.”

Cat Fletcher added: “I am beyond chuffed that the Kings House Reuse project has been recognised nationally. We had an ambition for unwanted council goods to be treated not just as waste to be disposed of but as resources to be shared and valued again. It was a mammoth task to get the job done, but it was an absolute pleasure to work with dynamic, efficient and forward thinking council officers to make it happen. It was a very successful and innovative collaboration with good outcomes for people, planet and pocket so I’m delighted that the project has been championed by the UK waste and resources industry with a national award.”

The project was part of the council’s Workstyles office modernisation programme. This rigorous reuse system for furniture and equipment avoids the financial and environmental costs of disposal, brings about changes in working and purchasing habits and benefits local and international organisations and community groups. 

Andrea Lockerbie, Associate Editor of MRWcommented: “This year’s winners showcase the innovation and creative thinking being applied by those who are leading the way in the field of resource and waste management. There is a lot that others can learn from them.”

Background information

MRW provides essential recycling and waste management news and in-depth market analysis. It covers innovation, legislation and materials processing, to ensure readers get the best value from the market to improve margins, efficiency and services.

Through print, online, mobile, and face to face at events and awards, MRW delivers access to the industry decision makers you need to reach.

Freegle is UK’s largest free online reuse network. It enables citizens to give away unwanted goods to people nearby who can make use of the items. The Brighton & Hove Freegle community is 31,000 strong. Cat Fletcher is a founder of Freegle and their current Media Director.