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Joanna Dainton: Reuse Made Easy At Bristol Waste


In June 2020 Bristol Waste opened its first Reuse Shop at the Avonmouth Reuse and Recycling Centre. 

The shop opening followed two years of pop-up reuse events, which helped us to understand local shopping habits for reuse items. This in turn, informed decisions on how we run the Reuse Shop. For example, upskilling our employees to undertake PAT testing in-house allows us to sell electrical items in the shop alongside furniture, paint, and other household goods.

As we are wholly owned by Bristol City Council and run both the Recycling Centres in Bristol, we are situated in a great position for the diversion of items from the waste stream. It is convenient for members of the public, who are already making a trip to recycling centres for waste from gardens and DIY projects, to be able to drop off items suitable for reuse. This is key for us; we want to make it easier for the public to donate and buy from our Reuse Shop. 

One of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic is that charity shops have had to shut. When combined with furlough and more working from home, we have seen a situation where many reusable items need a new home. Reuse Shops at recycling centres provide the public with an easy way to rehome unwanted items.

While the Avonmouth Reuse Shop is situated within a purpose-built space, it is possible to run a basic Reuse Shop with a simpler set up. While researching best practise for Avonmouth we visited many other fantastic Reuse Shops which were based in portacabins and shipping containers which ultimately provided a much-needed reuse facility at low cost.

Volunteers are also a vital part of our reuse team – with 12 fantastic volunteers helping between Monday and Friday when we are open. Recruiting and inducting the volunteers to ensure their safety and understanding of the company ethos has proven to be very worthwhile. In total we have been supported by over 800 hours of volunteer time since opening! This not only extended the number of items we were able to clean, price and check for sale, but also provided a much-needed space for people to learn new skills, make new friends and be part of a fulfilling project. We also support volunteers with travel and lunch expenses.

The current restrictions on non-essential shops have been tough, however we are utilising click and collect services by listing items on Facebook marketplace. This has also been a great way to raise awareness of the shop and publicise it locally. 

We have also chosen to stock a wide range of items to broaden our appeal to customers; this includes remanufactured paint from ReColour, and soil improver (compost) made from the garden waste collected at our recycling centres. These items alongside furniture, electricals, children’s toys, computer equipment and books mean we have a wide range of stock.

In addition to selling items through the shop we also have charity partners who benefit from donations; for example we are supporting St Mungos with kitchen utensils and crockery for people moving from homelessness into accommodation. We record the items we donate, and the tonnage from these donations goes towards our overall goals for reuse tonnages.

For councils out there who are considering reuse at recycling centres; it is possible to make it happen without huge expense or taking big risks. Start small, do your market research, get local people and organisations involved and find out what other reuse projects are happening in your area!

Joanna Dainton is currently the Reuse Coordinator at Bristol Waste Company, responsible for setting up and running Bristol’s first reuse shop at a Household Recycling Centre.

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