A profound understanding of our situation, that we live on a planet of finite resources and the sheer scale of undoing the damage we have already done, is essential to how we approach the manufacture of consumer goods in future. Manufacturing design must bake in reuse and repair, and an extended life cycle, leaving recycling a redundant or small part of the process. This has been amply outlined including by Scottish think tank Common Weal.
Meanwhile, we live with a historic backlog of manufactured goods destined for the landfill and the continuation of consumer manufacturing with not yet enough regard for planetary limitations. The best we can do right now is reuse and repair and gather for recycling what we can as an alternative to adding to the landfill items which either won’t biodegrade or which break down into harmful micro particles that can more easily enter food cycles and harm all living organisms.
Local authorities (LAs) represent a central point through which to respond locally to this reality. LAs handle landfill, recycling centres, planning permission and collect rates for businesses and premises in their regions. However, LAs right now are struggling at times to provide even basic services.
The main funding options include:
- increased funding from Westminster, the currency issuer for the UK and therefore of Scotland’s block grant,
- the prioritising of LA spending from the Scottish Government fixed budget,
- new taxation powers to local authorities; e.g. land tax reforms granted by the Scottish Government where possible, before and after independence,
- flexible spending choices made possible after independence when the Scottish Government becomes the issuer of the new Scottish currency.
Reuse Scotland is working on protecting the environment
The charity I work for, Reuse Scotland, has worked with LAs to gain access to reusable items from recycling centres. We have been granted permission to locate sheds at these centres which explicitly encourage and enable people to divert their items from landfill. Both items (around 100 tonnes/year) and cash raised from sales are freely donated to many organisations within our region; e.g. local charities, groups and clubs, cash-strapped local nurseries and schools and to crises both domestic and international.
Reuse Scotland diverts around 1,300 tonnes/year from landfill, makes presentable and puts up for sale many serviceable, quirky and vintage items at affordable prices, including offering a “pay what you want” scheme on items such as books, toys and from our household section. We are a not for profit charity seeking to cover costs, employing paid local staff to run the shop and manage donations received there and collected from recycling centres and elsewhere. Over the years, the challenges of securing long term and affordable premises have been tough and, at times, put the entire project at risk.
We are aware of other organisations in Scotland operating versions of what we do at Reuse Scotland; e.g. the Stirling Reuse Hub, but the road is long and complicated and many have failed. Allowing the space and funding to set up the right business model, access recycling centres and other sources of donations and securing appropriate, affordable premises is vital to success.
Imagine financially empowered LAs with a proactive mission to coordinate the various elements within their control, giving the best chance for success to endeavours like Reuse Scotland. Authorising the diversion of many tonnes from landfill to become available for reuse. Providing bespoke or allotted premises with minimal rates and rents, giving reuse charities the security to operate and to make best use of the money they raise. Helping to secure grants and funding to sustain projects through the set-up phase. In the process, creating resources, jobs and raising money for local communities.
It may even be possible, in an independent Scotland with its own currency, to offer these jobs as part of a centrally funded, LA dispensed job guarantee.
Instilling the widespread concept of reuse and repair as a first port of call will be a long journey. Repair and tool share outfits also add to the mix. Communities have a huge part to play and much to gain if the resources and funding can be found to offer facilities for reuse, repair and in every local authority. Communities together make up a country and countries make the world. There is a great deal of satisfaction and preparation for the future to be found in harnessing creative and practical skills in our somewhat consumer “junky” world.
People already want to participate in this sort of endeavour, they want to make a difference. This could be a route to changing wholesale our expectations for consumerism going forward, towards a model where manufacturing is regulated to prioritise repair and reuse from the outset.