We strongly believe that when charity shops and local authorities work together in partnership the benefits are shared among the council, the shop, and local residents.
Here are just two case studies which demonstrate the easy wins that flow from these partnerships:
Case study one
A good example comes from a furniture and electrical charity shop run by one of our larger members in Finchley, North London. This shop has developed an excellent relationship with their council.
When a local resident calls the council to ask them to take away an old piece of furniture, white good, or other electrical item, the council helpdesk will advise them that if they call their local charity shop they will likely be able to collect the item sooner, and will do so for free whereas the council levies a charge.
This benefits the council as they do not incur the costs associated with the collection. It benefits the environment as the item stays out of landfill and is reused in the local economy. It benefits the charity shop as they get more items to sell and raise more money for their cause. Finally, it benefits the resident who can arrange a quick, free, and ethical collection of their old item.
Case study two
Some councils allow a charity to run a shop at a household recycling centre, so that they can prevent items from going in into landfill and sell them back to local people instead.
Hertfordshire County Council do just this. At their Harpenden site they host a Sue Ryder shop from which they take a share of the profits. Around 20 per cent of the profits are taken by the county council, with the rest going to Sue Ryder.
They sell items which are left at the recycling centre and so this also reduces the amount going to landfill. This is a successful operation, evidenced by the fact that it is now being extended to other sites in the county.
Councils with waste partnerships
Despite these obvious benefits, very few councils of any type who chose to adopt them, as this table based on primary research I carried out in 2017 shows.
Fortunately, many influential policy makers are starting to understand the potential of these partnerships.
Last year, the London Assembly’s Environment Committee published its report on developing a circular economy for the capital, Wasting London’s Future. Following representations made by us in writing and in person, one of the key recommendations it made to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, was to promote partnerships with circular economy organisations like charity shops.
More recently, we have been approached by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to contribute to their circular economy strategy. They are particularly keen to learn how our shops can help to promote re-use and want more councils and charity shops to set up waste partnerships. As part of this of this process, I travelled to Whitehall last week to meet with their engagement team to talk about the benefits of joint working.
Every six years, the UK is required under EU legislation to update its Waste Framework Directive which sets out measures the government will pursue to boost re-use and reduction of waste, as achieving a circular economy is a key government priority, DEFRA is continuing with this work despite Brexit.
The Department wants to promote charity shop waste partnerships to councils in the documents it will release as part of this project. The best way to do this is with real life examples and case studies that will show local authorities the real financial benefits they can derive from such schemes. When they realise the potential this might also help us in our campaign against council waste charges.
We need your help
If you have a good example of a charity shop/council partnership then we want to hear about it, and DEFRA would like to hear about it too. Please send any information you have to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0300 030 1088 to take part. I hope to hear from you soon.
Head of Public Affairs and Research
Charity Retail Association