BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 3 2001-10-04 David Malone (Children's Warehouse, Newcastle)

written evidence submitted in advance

To REUSE or not to REUSE

Re-use is the 'Cinderella' of the environmental triumvirate. Overshadowed by its more (economically & politically) attractive Recycle & Reduce sisters it has over the years, nevertheless, made a significant contribution to a sustainable environment; from the ubiquitous milk bottle and 'Charity shop' to the high tech (and less desirable) conversion of spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons grade uranium!

The Childrens Warehouse

The Childrens Warehouse has been around for a long time - back in the 'post hippie' days of 1979 a group of artists working in community organisations started collecting waste materials for use with children and young people. This has evolved to the point now where although the project no longer does any direct work with children and young people, it now provides reuse materials for over 1100 members this is used to provide creative activities to over 10,000 children and young people. The project collects over 300 tonnes of clean, safe, useful waste a year from businesses throughout the N.E this is everything form basics such as paper & card, through foils, fabrics, wood, tubes, tins and bottles.

The philosophy of the project is based on three principles:

The crucial importance of creative play in a child's development has long been recognised. The right to . . . engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Arts have always played an important role in community life from choirs and brass bands to the annual pageants and Christmas nativity play, providing a focus for the community and an opportunity for everyone to make their own contribution.

Working with re-use materials provides a valuable opportunity for learning about caring for the environment in a practical and enjoyable way. The lessons are not just confined to the children and young people using the materials, nor even just to the adults working with them - experience has shown that it can also have a positive impact on the attitudes to waste of the material donors.

The Childrens Warehouse is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee, with a voluntary board of trustees, drawn from its membership and interested individuals, and a staff of four.

Membership of the project is open to individuals and organisation throughout the region, who are engaged in some form of creative activity with children and young people, the current list includes; parents/carers, playgroups, youth organisations, community groups, students and schools.

The project provides a range of services for its members:

ReByte computer refurbishment

The idea to look at providing refurbished computers for our members, developed from a number of considerations

  1. The project was being offered increasing quantities of surplus IT equipment
  2. Research by the Community Informatics Unit at the University of Teeside has shown that the take up of ICT in the voluntary sector is very low, and that the chief inhibiting factor is equipment cost.
  3. The EC WEEE directive, part of which should be implemented into law by 2002, sets specific targets for component, material and substance reuse and recycling
  4. There are opportunities for providing both employment and training in this area, which nationally has significant skills shortage.

An estimated 1 million tonnes of WEEE are discarded every year and IT equipment accounts for nearly 40% of this. Currently up to 10% of this is used in refurbishment and reuse schemes and in traditional second hand outlets. Of the rest, the majority will find their way into landfill sites or incineration plants - creating all manners of environmental problems and preventing their recycling for raw materials.

A recent study commissioned by the DTI to look at the impact of the EEC WEEE directive concluded that it

. . . would generate less environmental impact in the UK than current practices . . . the proposed EC requirements are 'cost-effective'

The activities of a refurbishment project encompass:

  1. Data wiping, cleaning and testing for reuse
  2. 'Reverse engineering' for component recovery
  3. Materials separation for recycling

At present there are a number of refurbishment projects throughout the country, both commercial and community based. One of the largest 'not-for profit' organisations refurbishes 2-300 systems per week and although most of these are sold to community organisations and people on low incomes, an increasing number are sold to 'developing' countries with lower ICT requirements.