How is this tackling the climate crisis?
Pembrokeshire County Council’s share, repair and reuse network cuts waste and benefits local communities. It was launched in March 2021 and has three key elements.
Eleven repair cafes spread across the county where volunteers fix broken items for free. Each cafe has its own specialism from bikes to textiles. This work is supported by Repair Cafe Wales, a community interest company expanding the repair cafe concept across the country.
A Library of Things in Haverfordwest, launched online in March 2021 and as a physical venue in November 2021. The service lets residents borrow a range of items at a low cost. People can browse what’s available online, from lawnmowers and children’s games to clothes for special occasions. The centre is supported by Benthyg Cymru, the Welsh Library of Things champion.
A series of re-manufacture workshops that takes unwanted broken or outdated objects that would otherwise go to landfill, repairs and upcycles them, then sells them to make money for local charities.
On top of this, Pembrokeshire has an impressive recycling rate of 72% for 2019/2020 – the highest in Wales – making for a truly comprehensive approach to reducing consumption and waste in the county.
The digital aspect:
The share, repair and reuse network relies on a digital platform and a database to function, especially the online catalogue for the library of things. Pembrokeshire College set up the catalogue for the council, also receiving help from Benthyg Cymru and Repair Café Wales to manage the digital side of things.
Social media has been important in raising awareness. At the beginning, the council’s social media posts about the project were averaging 500 engagements per post. By November 2021, engagements had reached up to 6,000 per post, showing significant growth in interest. This is thanks to Pembrokeshire College students and members of the Norman Industries supported employment team, who have run the digital marketing on the council’s behalf.
To benefit as many people as possible, the council has ensured that all elements of the network are available in accessible locations. The library of things is located right next to the bus station in Haverfordwest, for instance. The repair cafes take place across the county so that the whole Pembrokeshire community can benefit.
There is no set end date for the network, but some elements of the Pembrokeshire project are more financially sustainable than others. Some third-sector partners will be dependent on successful funding applications to continue participating. The council has mitigated this by embedding the project within the council’s ongoing supported employment programme, extending its lifecycle. All three parts of the network are currently sustainable due to a combination of income-generation, volunteer time, and access-to-work funding. In future, the council will seek additional funding should it wish to expand the network.
To avoid the whims of short funding-cycles, other councils should think about tying community sharing projects to a bigger programme of council work to make them long-term instead of short-term.
What impact has it had?
Providing skills training:
The reuse and repair network is led by Norman Industries, a supported business run by and part of Pembrokeshire County Council. Norman Industries offers paid work, training and work experience for people with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, mental ill health, and work-limiting health conditions. It employs more than 60 people. By delivering the various schemes through Norman Industries, the council is simultaneously promoting its green agenda and opportunities for people who face barriers to work.
The items upcycled by Norman Industries employees and volunteers in the workshops will be sold at Paul Sartori shops. Paul Sartori is a charity that offers free at-home nursing and medical care for people with life-limiting illnesses, and with whom the council has a close working relationship.
The council also has a thriving partnership with Pembrokeshire FRAME, a supported employment charity similar to Norman Industries. FRAME provides reuse and reduce operations, and helps disadvantaged people learn job skills, from collection of used furniture and household goods through to marketing and delivery services. FRAME is dedicated to easing poverty in rural communities.
The reuse and repair network was not fully active in its first months due to coronavirus restrictions in place in Wales from April to June, which stopped people from meeting physically. Despite this, as of November 2021:
- 45 repair cafes have been held by five different organisations
- 187 people have brought a total 226 items to the cafes, which have been repaired by a team of 32 new volunteers. Interest has grown over time, with each café busier than the last.
- 250 items have been re-manufactured and sold over a six-month period through the workshops
Items repaired may otherwise have been thrown away and new items bought adding to waste and expense. The services provided through the network have been particularly important for residents living in deprived wards who are able to get items fixed without great expense.
Awareness of the circular economy has spread amongst the general public and partner organisations. Residents are very enthusiastic about the network, feeding back positively and offering their own ideas – for example, suggesting which items they would want to borrow from the library of things. The council’s reputation has already been boosted by the project, and it hopes to see this effect snowball as more people hear about the activities.