Gothenburg Recycling House: A circular economy enterprise as the first step into the labour market

Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg’s ‘Recycling House’ produces and sells recycled and upcycled items to promote the circular economy. It also provides highly vulnerable people with an opportunity to test their work readiness in a safe setting.

The ‘Recycling House’ offers a rehabilitative employability and training programme for long term income support recipients who have been out of the labour market for several years or have never worked. The three to six month programme allows participants to gradually adapt to the workplace environment and strengthen their competence and skills to facilitate their entry into the labour market. This is a necessary first step for this target group to enter and succeed in mainstream employment programmes.

At the end of the programme, the support staff assesses each participant’s progress and recommends the most suitable follow-up activities to advance their employability. Many participants gain confidence in their ability to work and discover competences and skills they were not aware of. The results from the first half of 2014 show that, of the 31 people who took part in the programme, five people have gone directly into jobs available on the open labour market and 10 have enrolled in a support programme provided by the national public employment service.

Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/353-green-web_final.pdf


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City information
City
Gothenburg

Size and population development
around 535,267 inhabitants (March 2014) - growing faster than the country average

Population composition
20% of the population are born in a foreign country

Main functions
economic center; exchange hub; cultural and academic center

Main industries / business
automobil and high tech industry

Political structure
a municipal assembly and a municipal executive committee elected for four years

Administrative structure
19 district boards

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Background and objectives

One of the main environmental goals of the city of Gothenburg is to promote product reuse and the East Gothenburg district works intensively to improve recycling of all waste.

The city district of East Gothenburg is characterised by residential and socioeconomic segregation.  Compared to the rest of the city, an increasing number of residents in East Gothenburg have low educational attainment, lower income and poorer health. The unemployment rate in the district stands at 12.7% (compared to 8% in the rest of Gothenburg), 15.3% of households are dependent on social welfare (compared to 6.5% in the rest of Gothenburg) and 8.4% of these households have been jobless for more than 10 months.

Implementation

At any one time 35 people are enrolled in the ‘Recycling House’ programme. The participants of the programme are involved in the following ‘green’ activities:

  • Manufacturing products from recycled materials that are later sold in the ‘Recycling House’ shop. This includes repairing or creatively remodelling furniture, fixing up bicycles, household utensils, accessories, bags, plant pots and garden ornaments.
  • Preparing organic food and running the ‘Recycling House’ eco café. The cafe serves lunches and homemade cakes, and provides catering services for the district administration and local businesses.
  • Cultivating flowers in the nearby garden, which are also sold in the ‘Recycling House’ shop. 
  • Working in a ‘green team’ clearing up green areas in the city.

The ‘Recycling House’ is located in the city’s only recycling site ‘Alelyckan’. Several businesses operate within the site to collect recyclable waste and sell recycled materials to residents. This allows the ‘Recycling House’ to easily get hold of recycled material for manufacturing and brings customers to the shop and eco café.

Results and impacts

The ‘Recycling House’ environmental profile has a direct impact on the local community. Residents increase their awareness of environmental issues such as recycling and the circular economy through visiting the ‘Recycling House’ and eco café.

The results from the first half of 2014 show that, of the 31 people who took part in the programme, five people have gone directly into jobs available on the open labour market and 10 have enrolled in a support programme provided by the national public employment service.

The rehabilitative employment programme in the ‘Recycling House’ significantly enhances participants’ chances of getting a job. Not only do participants have a chance to earn more in the future compared to social benefits; they are also able to better integrate into society. Many participants gain confidence in their ability to work and discover competences and skills they were not aware of.

Barriers and challenges

The majority of the participants have mental or physical  health  issues,  a history of drug or substance abuse, or have experienced trauma or other forms of complex problems. Many have low self esteem and lack basic work place and social skills. The ‘Recycling House’ provides a safe and calm environment where participants can try out new things and test their skills at their own pace. The participants can choose the area of work they are the most comfortable with or rotate and work in different areas. There is no pressure to sell what they make; the decision is entirely up to each participant except for in the cafe and bicycle repair workshop.

The variety of the programme activities allows the project staffs to gain an in-depth understanding of what has prevented the individuals from working and how these obstacles can be overcome. At the end of the programme, the support staff assesses each participant’s progress and recommends the most suitable follow-up activities to advance their employability. These can include work placement, traineeships, education or vocational courses.

Lessons learned and transferability

In Green Jobs for social inclusion (see references), EUROCITIES identifies three main factors that contribute to the success of these city initiatives to create green jobs for social inclusion at the local level.

They are:

1. Combining demand and supply side interventions:  an intervention does not solely focus on developing people’s competences, skills and motivation (supply side intervention) but also aims to create a tangible route into the labour market (demand side intervention).

On the demand side, the programme's objective is to provide a ‘protected’ working environment with the view of supporting people to gain real work experience to enable them to compete in the mainstream labour market.

These demand side interventions are then complemented by well-matched activation and training measures (supply side interventions) helping people to gain specific skills and improve their chances of accessing the labour market.

2. Linking the interventions to local employment opportunities

The second success factor is the strong link between the programmes and local employment opportunities. Cities as the level of government closest to the people have an in-depth knowledge of their local labour markets. They can design programmes in line with local economic demand and prepare people for jobs that are available locally. The effectiveness of the demand and supply interventions is made stronger when they are grounded in local businesses and job market needs.

3. Tailoring activation measures to the specific needs of people

The third success factor of the programmes is linking the activation measures to the specific needs of the target groups.

For local authorities, programmes that combine greening and social inclusion bring added value, particularly during periods of budgetary constraint and growing demand for services. Integrated programmes that address several objectives with one investment bring efficiency to local interventions. Given the longer term perspective of the sector, linking job seekers to local jobs in the green economy should continue to bring results as the sector is set to grow.

More information on the success factors: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/green_jobs_for_social_inclusion_intro_FINAL.pdf

References

"Local strategies to implement national energy efficiency schemes", in Green Jobs for social inclusion, Eurocities, June 2015, 26-27.


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