A year of success for Community Wood Recycling

Social enterprise Community Wood Recycling (CWR) has rescued over 20,000 tonnes of waste wood from landfill in 2018/19, according to the organisation’s annual report.

Published yesterday (11 July), the report lays out the collective achievements, both social and environmental, made by CWR’s network of wood recycling projects.

Employees at the Glasgow Wood Recycling workshop
Glasgow Wood Recycling employees in the workshop
Set up in 2003 as the National Community Wood Recycling Project, the organisation now boasts 32 members from up and down the country, all independent social enterprises focused around wood reuse and recycling.

The projects are all modelled on the Brighton and Hove Wood Recycling Project, which was founded by Richard Mehmed, Managing Director of CWR. Each independent project has two central aims: to save resources by reusing waste timber, and to create sustainable jobs and volunteering opportunities for local people, especially those with difficulties getting into employment.

Green by nature

In 2018/19, CWR’s members collectively saved 21,800 tonnes of wood from landfill or being ‘downcycled’ into woodchip, an increase of three per cent on the previous year. Of the wood saved in 2018/19, 42 per cent was reused, with 5,700 tonnes of wood being used for DIY projects, and 3,500 used locally for firewood. 58 per cent of the wood rescued was recycled.

Much of this waste wood comes from construction and demolition, as well as from wood processing and manufacturing industries, such as timber mills. Reducing this waste to landfill also contributed to carbon emissions savings, with CWR stating that 8,440 tonnes of CO2 were saved in 2018/19 – the same amount of CO2 that would be absorbed by 10,000 acres of forest in a year.

The environmental benefit of recycling goes hand in hand with the social benefit of the projects, which aim to provide work opportunities for local people. Collectively, CWR members created or sustained 203 paid jobs in 2018/19, over half of which were full-time positions, while 822 people took part in training, an increase of 29 per cent on the previous year.

CWR projects have been recognised nationally for the social and environmental benefits they provide: in March this year, Glasgow Wood Recycling won a Sustainability Award from the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, an initiative that highlights the work of ‘microenterprises’, small businesses that are often part-funded by ‘responsible’ business finance. Glasgow Wood Recycling employs 20 people in wood collection, recycling and bespoke furniture making and also offers a six-week training programme, Wood Unlimited, aimed at tackling loneliness and isolation though woodwork, conservation and community projects.

‘Making life better for people who have been excluded from the workplace’

Glasgow is not the only CWR member to be recognised this year, with Oxford Wood Recycling snapping up two prizes including a Social Responsibility Award from the South and Vale Business Awards in 2018, while Reseiclo Community Wood Recycling in South Wales won an Environmental Award from the Social Business Wales Awards 2018.

Community Wood Recycling social benefits in 2018-19
The social benefits of Community Wood Recycling in 2018-19

In Leeds, a wood recycling project set up in 2018 has already collected 1,010 cubic yards (272 tonnes) of wood and saved 13.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions, while running woodwork courses for those at risk of social isolation.

“Leeds Wood Recycling have been so privileged to meet amazing volunteers and gain so much support from the community of Leeds in such a short space of time,” commented Charlotte Stanley, Enterprise Manager at Leeds Wood Recycling, “We want the word to keep spreading so we can carry on saving wood from being wasted, and continue to support and empower the people that we meet along the way.”

In the CWR annual report, Mehmed writes: ‘We are united by a desire to do everything we can to save precious resources while making life better for people who have been excluded from the workplace.

‘Our service is based on the principles of the circular economy; by reusing wood we are building a more sustainable society, and we promote community reuse, one of the most powerful tools available to fight waste. We work with local people, bringing men and women who are marginalised into a supportive workplace. They become part of our team and gain training and work experience as well as a sense of pride, and we see them flourish.

‘When I visit enterprises and meet people who have moved from social isolation, loneliness and lack of confidence to paid work, shared achievements and the sense of camaraderie that comes from working together to help the environment, I am inspired by what we have achieved.’

You can find out more about the work of Community Wood Recycling on the organisation’s website.

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