LGA urges retailers to expand take-back services to prevent waste

The Local Government Association is urging retailers to expand or introduce take-back services for unwanted goods to divert them away from landfill and encourage reuse.

The LGA has published its views in a new report launched today (27 March) called ‘Routes to reuse: Maximising value from reused materials’.

It revealed that households are binning serviceable goods worth over £400m every year. According to the LGA, the reusable items sent into landfill, from armchairs to kettles and televisions, weigh as much as 90,000 elephants.

The report states that a number of major retailers are offering take-back schemes for unwanted products and that reusing unwanted goods needs to be simple and convenient “if we are to encourage householders to do it on a larger scale”.

It has urged major retailers to expand or introduce take-back services. It also asserts that more drop-off services and responsive pick-up points for unwanted items should be made available for householders.

The report of the LGA’s Reuse Commission, released today, shows:
·Almost 615,000 tonnes of material is currently disposed of in England, even though it has the potential to be reused each year.
·The sale of textiles that could be reused would be worth up to £143m and resale of reusable Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) could have a value of up to £231m per year.
·In total there could be up to £435m of value through reuse available each year to local authorities and their reuse partners

The report highlights a range of methods and best practice in reuse including eBay, Freecycle, local projects, charities and social enterprises as well as informal arrangements between residents.

Launching the report, LGA Environment and Housing Board chair and Councillor Mike Jones said: “Every year, a mountain of televisions, kettles, furniture and other items are thrown away, even though they are not broken and could be re-used. We’re calling for councils and consumers to join together to find new homes for these goods, which will not only save taxpayers money, but reduce the amount of waste unnecessarily sent to landfill.

“We know lots of consumers already find new homes for their unwanted items, which saves taxpayers from paying for collection and treatment. But there are opportunities for far more reuse of a range of goods, and we want consumers to get involved and play a bigger part in this.”

LGA Reuse Commission chair Councillor Clyde Loakes added: “Government, councils, the waste industry and voluntary groups need to work together with consumers to highlight the potential of reuse. We want to see a vibrant reuse culture which provides jobs, training and value to our society and economy and which puts money in taxpayers’ pockets.”

The Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) said it welcomed the publication of the LGA’s report `Routes to Re-use – Maximising Value from Re-used Materials’ and particularly the recognition that social and economic value can be maximised by re-using items currently destined for landfill and incineration.

In a statement, FRN said: “FRN doesn’t want local authorities or central Government to overlook the fact that the furniture re-use network of charities and social enterprises is already saving £286m per annum for low income households in England by making available low cost, pre-used – usually essential – household goods.

“This socially and financially-inclusive approach by the re-use sector ensures that local authority welfare bills are lower, and that low income households are diverted away from financially crippling high-interest retail shops, pay-day lenders and loan sharks.

“A key question within the report is how we can stimulate demand. FRN says much of the demand already exists and the re-use sector needs to access to more of the reusable waste stream.

“What’s missing? FRN needs local authorities to stop working in silos and recognise the budget savings, if not the environmental and welfare importance attached to joined-up commissioning. Commissioning shouldn’t be just about meeting one department’s objectives such as improving waste diversion; but welfare, social inclusion and community cohesion considerations should be factored in too. The network of re-use organisations has many of the local solutions.”

Liz Gyekye

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