© City of Brighton & Hove
The Brighton & Hove council has implemented a programme to keep reusable goods out of the bin.
Brighton & Hove City Council has developed an innovative way to minimise waste as part of an ambitious office modernisation programme. This rigorous reuse system for furniture and equipment avoids the financial and environmental costs of disposal and brings about changes in working and purchasing habits.
The reuse project supported more than 300 charities and community groups, 50 schools, 500 individuals, 150 businesses, 4 international projects and 30 tonnes of furniture for the Royal Sussex County Hospital. It has also 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.
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Size and population development
City in South East England; England's most populous seaside resort
Main industries / business
Tourism and entertainment; creative, digital and electronic industries
Unitary authority council and Mayor (54 elected Councillors)
Background and objectives
Brighton & Hove has long been one of the UK's most environmentally aware and active cities. The local authority set up a pioneering, cross-party Sustainability Commission in 2003 and was the first city globally to achieve One Planet Living status. Today it is the lead authority in the UNESCO designated Biosphere programme The Living Coast, due in part to its strong focus on sustainability. Brighton & Hove is also the first UK city to have a Green MP and is home to the first building in the UK constructed solely from waste materials. When the council developed modernisation plans for its 25 office buildings, environmental objectives were high on the agenda, alongside saving money and modernising work spaces.
The council was very conscious that renovating and vacating its offices and preparing for their paperless future would reveal an enormous volume of unwanted furniture and office resources. Choosing to see this as an opportunity to explore new ways of being less wasteful and more resourceful.
Through the City Sustainability Partnership, the council became aware of reuse as a means of displacing the need to buy new, saving waste disposal costs, reducing carbon emissions and being able to give free supplies to individuals and public sector, commercial and voluntary organisations. The decision was made to pilot a simple, non-bureaucratic reuse process model combining a private enterprise proven pragmatic and creative approach with city-wide, cross-sector collaboration.
A number of demonstrator clear-out projects were undertaken concentrating on keeping unwanted goods in circulation through redistribution. These showed that the model could massively reduce the flow of usable items and materials entering the waste stream, in contrast to the old system of removal and disposal via landfill and incineration. As a result, the city appointed its first Reuse Manager who was tasked with the biggest project of all, the closure of Kings House, home to 100,000 square feet of office space and 1,000 staff.
Many local entrepreneurs and designers came up with imaginative ways of repurposing items. One café made a ceiling from ring binders, university students built robots from furniture and electronic gadgets and a property company converted filing cabinets into mobile flower beds. A sustainable fashion designer worked turned thousands of plastic in-trays into laser-cut sunglasses - and created a new brand.
Everything from paper clips to building materials and sports equipment to the contents of a commercial kitchen was redistributed, with just half a van load left at the end of the project.
Financing and resources
The lead agency for the project is the city of Brighton & Hove with the support of Freegle UK.
Results and impacts
In total, more than 150 tonnes of material was reused, equating to €165,000 of economic value re-entering the community and carbon savings of 225 tonnes. The Reuse Manager role represented an overall saving of €41,000 compared to paying a waste disposal company to clear the building.
The council believes the project has changed the way it thinks about its offices, assets and approach to work and that this culture shift will pay ongoing dividends by preventing unnecessary purchasing and disposal costs. It also cites the goodwill generated among the people and organisations of the city as a positive outcome that will have a lasting effect on support for future environmental initiatives.
Barriers and challenges
One of the most significant challenges was overcoming resistance to the reuse of IT equipment not holding data, such as keyboards, mice, chargers and monitors. Previously, the IT department had followed the EU WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive, which specifies how to dispose of and recycle this equipment, but says nothing about reuse. Reuse was, therefore, not seen as part of the department’s responsibility.
Lessons learned and transferability
Three factors are key to the project's achievements. Working with staff at the start of the sorting process to influence their mindset, being flexible during the sorting process to accommodate different teams' schedules and styles of working and keeping a record of all goods, transactions and recipients so impact can be evidenced.
The council is now committed to making reuse a vital component in any future building modernisation programme. In the meantime, The reuse manager and team are advising other UK cities who wish to replicate the model, giving presentations to the recycling and waste management sector and maintaining the momentum that has been created around waste prevention by exploring the development of a City Reuse Depot to trigger innovative cross-sector projects.