One New Year resolution I am still holding tight to is the one about getting out of the office more to see stuff actually happening on the ground. To meet the people at the coal-face as it were and see first-hand how the recycling and circular economy revolution is taking shape here in Scotland.
So I was delighted to be invited last week to help open Tayside Re-users’ newly refurbished Tay Treasures store in Dundee. The new store really looked the part, full of fantastic second-hand products as well as set up to offer a real ‘high-street’ shopping experience. It also sits within the heart of Tayside Re-users’ wider ‘Emporium’ which has all manner of things such as furniture, books and white goods, all laid out in a tasteful and accessible format, reinforcing again just how far the re-use sector has come in terms of growth and maturity, both as individual organisations and as a sector more generally.
People who know me know that I care passionately about the re-use sector and have always believed it has an important role in helping us to progress towards becoming a zero waste society. But perhaps more relevant at the moment, I also see it at the heart of the shift to a circular economy.
What’s clear to me is that the re-use sector in Scotland believes this too and the trip to Dundee confirms that there is new vigour and ambition within the sector - like they can sense the wind changing in their direction.
Our Revolve accreditation for re-use organisations is therefore one of our key actions in support of these organisations. Revolve is Scotland’s national quality standard for re-use – and since we developed it just a few years ago it has expanded to now include 32 accredited stores across Scotland.
The feedback we get from Revolve organisations is that the process makes a huge difference in helping them to provide a fantastic retail experience for customers. As the whole process also involves the entire organisation including staff, volunteers and board members, it’s clear the organisation feels different about itself once accreditation is achieved. I think this is also contributing to the new mood of optimism the sector is demonstrating.
So my commitment is to ensure Zero Waste Scotland not only continues to support the re-use sector directly but ensures that we are signposting our wider partners such as in retail, hospitality and the public sector to the local groups and organisations who are now burgeoning with ambition and expansion plans as well as delivering a professional and accessible service – a service that provides not only environmental benefits, but significant social and economic ones too.
So we will continue to support and promote activities such as the National Re-use phone line, volunteering and training in reuse and repair, accessing bulky uplifts for reuse, creating reuse and repair hubs to create scale and make re-use and repair even more mainstream. In fact I will be personally championing these in our Delivery Plan for 2015-16. This for me will definitely be the year for re-use.
The circular economy is not all about creating something new, but about ‘repurposing’ things we already have. By giving them a new prominence in the system, whether that is a societal, economic or environmental system we give them a new and possibly enhanced lease of life. The re-use sector is probably therefore a good place to start, as it already has a base on which to expand and grow and deliver immediate impact. And as my trip to Dundee showed me it also has committed people involved and leading with a clear vision on where they want to go. Just as Tayside Re-users aims to give a future to previously discarded goods, the circular economy can give a promising future to the whole sector.