A boat, a replica of Del Boy’s yellow car from ‘Only Fools And Horses’ – and even a live pig. These are just some of the 700 tonnes of rubbish rescued by The Reusers for their mega charity shop, which sits next door to Birmingham’s biggest household waste recycling site.
New council figures seen by HuffPost UK show that in the year to 25 June 2018 Birmingham recycled just 22.6% of its waste - around half of the national average of 43.7%. The vast majority is either burned to make electricity or sent to landfill. The ReUsers are doing their bit to help turnaround Birmingham’s bin habit by intercepting reusable rubbish before it’s even chucked, and selling it to around 1,500 customers a week.
At the entrance of the household waste site, in Sutton Coldfield, there are two options: turn left for the ReUse centre, or turn right for the tip. “Reuse is the most preferable thing in the hierarchy of waste management,” The ReUsers manager Richard Craythorn explains to HuffPost UK.
“Ultimately, we take as much as we can - and that’s anything from furniture to bricks, glass, mirrors, clothing, camping equipment, garden furniture - we’ve had everything from caravans, trailers, boats and cars,” he says.
The ReUsers - whose mantra is that the best way to avoid needless waste is to repurpose it - then sell the donated goods if they’re in smart condition, or try and upcycle them if not – turning them into new products such as garden benches.
Festival organisers, local theatre companies and landlords are all regular customers and according to one fan it’s an “Aladdin’s Cave of all sort of treasures”.
“We’ve supplied kit for show homes, films - you name it we’ve got involved in it,” Craythorn says.
You’ll find the typical items you’d expect to see, as people clear out their lofts or garages – golf clubs, gym equipment, sewing machines and chairs are regular donations - but the ReUsers are also gifted more surprising goods.
“We hold a stock at any one time of about 100 tonnes and that can be anything from fishing equipment to slabs and fireplaces - you name it, we’ve got it,” Craythorn says.
“The craziest thing we’ve had - though I’m not sure this is the right thing to publicise, is a live pig,” Craythorn adds – stressing that The ReUsers is not an animal rescue centre, so people shouldn’t try and donate any more animals.
“They didn’t just turn up - a lady had come in and had spoken to one of our members of staff. She had purchased what she believed was a micro pig but it turned out to be a giant pig.
“One of the women working for us at the time had a brother who was a farmer, so we passed it on to him – though all the correct channels.”
Other notable donations include “half of a bright yellow Reliant Robin - exactly the sort Del Boy would have driven in ‘Only Fools And Horses’” and a £1,000 remote controlled speed boat.
Many of the employees at the site began as paid apprentices and have come from challenging backgrounds. The ReUsers, which is supported by Birmingham City Council and is part of the charity Jericho, has a dual aim, and provides an 18 month apprenticeship scheme with an NVQ in retail and customer services.
It focuses on helping vulnerable people develop skills and find employment, including former victims of modern slavery and trafficking, or those who have substance issues or have been physically and mentally abused.
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