BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 3 2001-10-04 David Shipley & Mac Leadbitter (Project Managers, Community Transport, Newcastle)

report from minutes of Select Committee

(8) COMMUNITY TRANSPORT (NEWCASTLE PROJECT: COMMUNITY FURNITURE)

Submitted: Reports produced by David Shipley, Deputy Project Manager of the above organisation (Previously circulated and copy in Official Minute Book).

The Chair welcomed Mr David Shipley and Mr Mac Leadbitter (Project Manager) to the meeting.

Mr Leadbitter reported that his organisation was part of a national charity called Community Transport, based on Shields Road beside Byker Bridge. Its mission was to collect donated furniture and pass on to people in need. The charity had been operational for 35 years, but the Newcastle operation had been in existence for 18 years. The organisation supplied recycled furniture and undertook removals (including emergency removals referred by the City Council). There were currently 10 volunteers and 12 trainees.

David Shipley made a slide presentation, during which a number if points were highlighted. There were 18 storage container units, with up to 146 furniture collections per week (Optimum - 120 deliveries). This averaged at 45 furniture deliveries per week. Details of furniture collection were as follows: (a) 1999-2000 - 5446 (b) 2000-2001 - 5612 (c) 2001 (April - Sept) - 2732. Furniture had been supplied as follows: (a) 1999-2000 - 2346 (b) 2000-2001 - 2756 (c) 2001 (April to Sept) - 1443

The organisation was recycling up to 9 metric tonnes per week, with waste disposal up to 6 metric tonnes per week. On waste disposal, 135 trips had been undertake to Benwell Waste Transfer Station this year, with over 150 metric tones of waste tipped, averaging more than 1 metric tonne per visit. Despite the scale of tipping, the organisation recycled as much as one and a half times the weight of furniture tipped. A charge was made for furniture to cover costs, unless there was Housing or Social Services involvement, in which case that agency paid. The organisation's turnover was �150 thousand/�160 thousand per year, aiming to recoup its own costs and keep the cost to the recipient as low as possible.

In terms of the way forward, Mr Leadbitter suggested that the organisation had succeeded thus far with limited resource sand funding. With more resources there was more scope for development. The organisation wanted to restore and recycle more white goods, aimed to reduce wood waste to pulp (since 80% of waste was good wood) and chippings and extend furniture restoration and refurbishment.


At this stage, the select Committee asked the following questions:-

(1) A lot of furniture is chucked out and destroyed each year, particularly in student areas or areas with a high turnover of occupancies. How does the Community Furniture scheme advertise its services and could it cope with a large-scale city- wide attempt to assess, renovate and re-use all this discarded furniture? If not, what would be required for such a project? (Phil Capon)

Mr Leadbitter could not say. He felt that this was a case of merely scratching the surface. It was noted that the local authority had not approached the organisation in terms of how the might fit in.

(2) What happens to furniture which is simply dumped in back alleys? When the council comes to take it away do they dispose of it at he dump or would they take it to Community Furniture if it were in good condition? (Sylvia Conway)

Mr Leadbitter reported that this did not happen at the moment. Envirocall did assist by passing details of people requiring furniture on to the organisation, but they would not collect and bring to them. Community Furniture advertised in local newspapers and networked with self-help groups etc.

Phil Capon made reference to a previous statement about the Netherlands where, if furniture was not suitable for reuse, it was passed to the City Council as waste.

Mr Leadbitter confirmed that no grants were obtained from the City Council for the furniture side of its operation. Bids were places into a local Trust. Community Furniture obtained 90% of all its monies from sales. The Chair queried how this compared across the UK. Mr Leadbitter reported that elsewhere, 50/60% of running costs were funded by the local authority

(3) Do you have links with other local organisations such as Renew North East in Felling? (Roger Mould)

Mr Leadbitter reported that they had a good relationship with Renew, but they did not work with any other body on white goods.

(4) If the furniture you collect is not up to being re-used, would it be feasible to separate eg. Rags, foam, wood? (Jo Bourne)

Mr Leadbitter replied in the negative. This was a question of cost and human resources. Mr Shipley suggested that there was a space problem here, too. The turnover of furniture was high.

In referring to the statistics provided on a map, and the areas covered, Bill Hopwood queried why there was a preponderance of activity in Newcastle. Mr Leadbitter pointed out that advertising did take place, but Newcastle was simply where most of the donations came from. These were not mobile donations, which might account for the situation.

In response to questions on the trainees, Mr Leadbitter pointed out that Community Furniture was not a training `provider', but were providing experience for the trainees. Relationships developed on an individual basis. Once the trainees left, the only information on their progress was via yearly statistics. There was a high level of turnover.

A discussion ensued on the signposting of the operation, during which Mr Leadbitter pointed out that further location boards had been requested from the City Council.

The Chair queried whether Community Furniture saw itself primarily as a social service or an environmental contributor. Mr Leadbitter suggested that both aspects were appropriate to their activities, but principally the organisation was providing a social service to alleviate poverty. The Chair queried whether Social Security could be perceived as using the organisation as an excuse to keep crisis loans low. Mr Leadbitter felt that this was undoubtedly the case. In response to Val Barton's query, Mr Leadbitter stated that approximately 95% of people coming to the warehouse were there because of `need'. On the question of hygiene, it was reported that furniture was separated out when first dropped off. Bill Colwell suggested that there must be considerable weight of furniture in terms of tonnage and queried what happened to furniture that was unusable. Mr Leadbitter stated that the organisation would rather give material away than tip it. With regard to soft furnishings, there was a bric a brac shop on the premises. On the quality of training, it was reported that NVQ qualification was the aim.

At this stage, the Chair thanked Mr Leadbitter and Mr Shipley for their attendance.