Brett Simpson, Head of Development reports…

It was a real privilege to be invited as a guest speaker to the Chartered Institute of Waste Management Wales, whose AGM was held at the Glyndwr University in Wrexham last week. The theme of the event was “moving to a circular economy” and delegates came from a wide range of backgrounds and industries including the Welsh Government, local authorities, sustainability and the environment, waste management, charities and other private organisations – all with an interest in reducing waste and increasing reuse.

On the day there were several presentations on how to develop reuse activities and what actions different organisations are taking to help move from a linear economy – often described as ‘take, make and waste’ – to a circular economy (‘produce, consume, reuse and recycle’).

Charities are very active, and often lead the way in the reuse sector, so it was a great opportunity to share not only the scale of what we do but also the challenges we face on a day to day basis. At Salvation Army Trading Company, we handle around 50 million donated items each year, and work to divert them away from landfill and into the hands of people where they can be either reused for their original purpose or possibly recycled with a little effort.

There was much discussion about the need to raise awareness of increasing operating costs and the reducing value of textiles. At the Salvation Army we’re taking positive steps and investing in technology to make the way we work more efficient to make sure we are still helping to fund the work of The Salvation Army. Through our clothing collection division, we’re looking at everything from the way people donate to our sorting processes as well as Gift Aid and supply to our charity shops. As a result we’re a stable and secure reuse and recycling partner for organisations in private and public sectors.

There was also lot of interest in how we are attempting to solve some of the more challenging issues of textile collecting, particularly reducing the large number of corporate uniforms that find their way into the waste stream. Often this is due to the brand or security needs of the garment owners, but we’ve already got experience with a banking group and have made great progress in tackling uniform reuse and recycling.

Most importantly, I was able to share some examples of the great work of The Salvation Army in Wales, all of which are supported by the funds generated through our clothing collection division and our charity shops.  The Salvation Army's South and Mid Wales Division has 34 community churches that offer a range of practical support to their communities. Initiatives include emergency food provision, befriending services, drop-ins, drug and alcohol support work, children's ministry, parent and toddler groups, fellowship groups, outreach work to older people's care homes, street ministry and Christmas present collections.

The church and charity also runs centres and services for people overcoming the challenges of homelessness. Ty Gobaith (translated as Hope House in English) Lifehouse is located in Cardiff and offers support to people who have lost their homes through unemployment, substance misuse, and relationship breakdowns. There is also the Crichton House Outreach Services, which manages the Cardiff Bus Project. This is a unique project to Wales and operates five nights a week, 52 weeks a year. For over 12 years the project has been a vital lifeline to rough sleepers in the city centre. The Salvation Army also operates Northlands Lifehouse in Cardiff, which provides support to young people aged between 16 and 25 who are experiencing homelessness. The aim of the centre is to help people get back into their own homes and continue to support them to maintain that.

The AGM stimulated positive thought and generated renewed interest surrounding the future of the reuse and recycling industry. It was particularly heartening to receive such a warm response to our organisation and the way it contributes to moving towards a circular economy.