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What’s the idea?

Sunderland City Council will develop the Community Reuse Network, a collaborative digital platform to prevent reusable furniture and household items being destroyed or fly-tipped. The online platform will enable collections by local ‘re-use centres’. Once the goods have been upcycled, specialist service providers working with vulnerable families, will then be able to source this affordable furniture without shop location, opening times, cost or transport being an issue.

Background

During 2016, Sunderland Council identified two priorities to address in the city: reducing the amount of bulky waste that ended up in landfill, and supporting the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Recent figures show that some 13,000 bulky waste collections are made each year across Sunderland. Yet, while 60 per cent of the items collected are actually reusable, the majority end up being destroyed.

Fly-tipping is also an ongoing challenge in the area. Some 2,000 reports were registered in one three month period

Our second challenge is doing more to support the city’s most vulnerable residents. The city currently has high levels of child poverty, low income families and households in crisis who often cannot afford to purchase the furniture they need.

East Area Committee recognised that these two priorities could benefit from a partnership approach. In 2017, we launched a successful prototype known as the East Area Re-Use Network (E.A.R.N) - in partnership with software developers Consult and Design International, youth workers The Box Youth Project, upcyclers Make Your Way and Digital Catapult Centre North East and Tees Valley - which we will now develop into a working pilot using the ShareLab funding

We see a real opportunity to make a difference. Our prototype proved that using technology can provide significant added value throughout the process, ensuring the most vulnerable get priority in the redistribution of good quality furniture. By the end of the pilot we hope to understand to what extend the platform can:

  • Reduce tonnage of waste going to landfill
  • Increase savings in waste management
  • Improve residents’ lives by ending furniture poverty
  • Build resilient communities by helping services providers and residents to help themselves
  • Develop a new way of working, by collaborating with partners to deliver services

Why the ShareLab Fund?

The ShareLab Fund will allow us to develop our digital platform, which we then aim to roll out across the city - and then nationally - based on the success of the pilot in 2019.

The pilot will enable us to test how the service can improve and help us develop the functionality of the platform. By the end we aim to have a fully functional service and an evaluation report that demonstrates how we have relieved pressure on services - by affecting furniture poverty and supporting families and vulnerable adults without the need for council intervention, all while reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

Through innovation we hope to be a front-runner in using technology to solve social inequality and address environmental issues.

Sunderland City Council’s Community Reuse Network will receive £25,750 from the ShareLab Fund.