Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

‘Waste to wealth’ can help to support communities – #povertyinwales

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As we near the end of our Tackling Poverty Fortnight campaign, we’ve received a guest blog post from Ellen Petts, MD of Greenstream Flooring CIC. Ellen’s post provides an insight into how her business, based in Porth, has a positive impact on poverty:

Although I am no expert on the complex issues of why we in Wales have even one person ‘living in poverty’, I’m pretty  opinionated and do know what we at Greenstream Flooring CIC do, in our small way, to try and alleviate some of the harshness of actually living in poverty.

The story of Greenstream Flooring CIC, is a story which really shouldn’t exist. Why is it that an ‘intelligent’ species has got itself in a position where it accepts that on one hand it wastes vast amounts of valuable materials, including food, and on the other hand large numbers  of people are living in poverty, don’t want or can’t access  this abundance of ‘waste’ material, including the humble carpet tile – our bag?

Ellen Petts

Ellen Petts

Only this week Tesco announced it wasted 30,000 tonnes of food in the first six months of this year. Just because some ‘Eurocrat’ somewhere has decreed so called ‘sell-by / use by’ dates, you’re not telling me that no less than 50% of that food wasn’t edible?  In the humble world of the carpet tile, enormous amounts of carbon and energy is put into making a product that is indestructible and yet, a few years later, vast energy is also put into trying to destroy it, either via reprocessing, burning or burying it!

In my experience, simply getting hold of an otherwise wasted material (carpet tiles in our case)  re-cleaning and re-grading it and then selling it, at a fraction of the cost of new, is not only creating employment but it’s also creating the basic warmth, sound–proofing, insulation and dignity that everyone should have in a so called ‘developed society’. When food’s hard enough to buy then the warmth and comfort provided by carpet is simply too much of a luxury for lots of people!

I’m sure I’m over simplifying the situation but giving materials a second life is, as far as my experience,  a real opportunity for community regeneration through ‘repair, re-distribution and  re-sale’. Be it food, washing machines, curtains or our stuff – the humble carpet tiles, what we  need  is two things to happen.

Firstly I would like to see a concerted effort in Wales to help develop the re-use sector, to help the sector develop more material streams and more facilities. A ‘waste to wealth’ campaign, that  identifies a number of key materials which are and  have  the potential for local ‘wealth creation’ and then supports  communities  to develop the potential of those materials, is what’s called for first. Real local regeneration outputs of creating training and employment are possible, however small, in the job of helping to alleviate the symptoms of poverty. We and other re-use groups in Wales are sustainable businesses, via the valid re-use of otherwise wasted materials for local benefit, be it food, furniture or even carpet tiles.

Secondly, in a world where charity shops, eBay and the like are abundant, do low income people have the will or the tools to find cheaper second hand goods?  If you haven’t got transport and you don’t have the internet your options are limited to your local convenience store and whichever hawk comes knocking on your door. In our case, people can buy three grades of re-used carpet tile, A to C, with the prices as low as 30p per tile, £1.20 per m2, we are even happy to donate carpets (www.homeliferange.co.uk) . However I’m not convinced we are reaching more than a fraction of the people that really need us. So how do we reach those people before the door-stop hawk?  Maybe another campaign is the answer along the lines of ‘second is not second best’, would help. Signposting people to their good quality local second hand store before going to the lengths of getting a door-step loan to buy new would surely have some impact.

Anyway, we at Greenstream try and provide some of the warmth, comfort and basic dignity that carpets provides. Regardless of people’s income, everyone deserves to keep warm and insulated where they live especially when the carpet in question would otherwise be thrown out!

Ellen Petts, Greenstream Flooring CIC, www.homeliferange.org.uk, www.findcarpettiles.co.uk

Written by Mark Smith

November 8, 2013 at 8:15 am

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