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July 27, 2011

Wanting to be taken seriously

A Peterhead based community recycling business is worried that they’ve become victims of their own success. Despite a turnover of £18,000 in its first six months of trading while diverting 45 tons of waste from landfill, 2ReUse is becoming frustrated with local businesses not treating them as a serious commercial concern. 2ReUse work with volunteers and offer placements to people marginalised in the community and believe this aspect of their work should be valued as highly as turnover

With a turnover of £18,000 achieved in just six months, 45 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill and an army of volunteers recruited to deliver a community recycling scheme, business is booming at Peterhead Projects Limited’s 2ReUse scheme. But, despite the incredible success, the Buchan social enterprise has had difficulty convincing people that it is doing business at all. That should now change, however, after the project secured a place in the finalist shortlist in this year’s Grampian Awards for Business Enterprise.

Project development manager Karen Brown says the group’s links to the third sector can often mean that it is not taken seriously as a business concern. “We do suffer from the stigma that we are ‘just a charity’ and when we attend meetings with corporate businesses they do not always see the relevance of us being there. But people’s perceptions are changing and the barriers are being broken down, so this nomination will do us no harm at all in reinforcing the fact that we are actually running a business,” she says.

Finalists in the Alick Buchanan Smith Spirit of Enterprise Award must show a unique approach to performance, people development, technology and a significant contribution to the community. Peterhead Projects will face competition in the category from The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, based in Portsoy, and Aberdeen children’s charity, Befriend a Child. 

Peterhead Projects Limited is governed by a board of eight volunteer directors and is owned and led by members of the community. It was launched in 2009 as a means to improve and promote Peterhead and the surrounding villages by initiating and developing projects to benefit the local economy, community employment and environment. Peterhead Projects Ltd recognised that there was a need to take action on recycling in the local area, which has high pockets of multi-deprivation. Statistics showed that 151,010 tonnes of municipal solid waste was being collected every year.

2ReUse was set up in September 2010 to provide a cost effective retail service to housing tenants, predominantly in the social housing market, while diverting waste from landfill. It provides tenants with basic furniture starter packs, and also sells a wide range of household items and clothes. Other services include house clearances, largely on behalf of the private sector, and retail sales to the general public. Future plans include expanding the range of products it is able to recycle, including video cassettes.

As well as tackling problems relating to social disadvantage and waste, the project has been instrumental in providing volunteering opportunities to people who want to gain new skills and experiences. An incredible 3145.5 volunteer hours were supported in 2ReUse’s first six months of operation, and at present the project has 42 volunteers on its books. Four volunteers have used the project as a stepping stone to full-time employment, one young volunteer has used the experience to obtain a Youth Achievement Award, and placements are provided to groups often marginalised by society, including people with mental health illnesses and the long-term unemployed. 

Karen says: “We would not be where we are today without our volunteers: we simply could not run or function without them. They are so important to us, and we view them as being on par with our paid employees. I think our success in being able to recruit so many volunteers is down to being able to provide a structured learning programme so that we can evidence their progression from the moment they start to where they are now. 

“We also have over 100 partners that we have encouraged to get on board to support us. They are able to help us in a variety of ways, for example one of our partners offers us free storage and free transport. But it’s not all about us taking: in return our volunteers have painted their storage centre compound.”