The world of reuse, upcycling, and recycling, is often described as a modern phenomenon. Sometimes seen as an outsider industry, it can be belittled and cycnically used by large companies to gain the ‘green market’.
What, in fact, is a modern phenomenon is the idea of waste – of resources, once used, becoming waste product, and the need to deal with that.
The old adage of the new car losing a quarter of its value the minute it drives off the lot runs through my head as i pluck wedding dresses from my local recycling centre, or pull bags of clothes on hangers from litter left on the street (NB this is theft by finding, but that’s another blog). In our hyper driven economy, once its worn, used, boring, unfashionable, broken, stained, too small, too big, scuffed, or just surplus, its waste. But it isn’t waste. What determines waste is what happens to it once it leaves the owners hands.
In the textiles sector that Kecks is part of, and in the furniture world we are just moving into with workshops, there is a movement away from seeing second hand garments and home wares as devalued, to seeing the innate value of each resource. If we donate an object to a charity shop, no matter the quality or condition, there may be a great undervaluing and the subsequent loss of revenue may not benefit your cause. It can lose money. Also, an old garment or object is subject to the same scrutiny you subject it to before throwing it away – so if it seems ugly or old to you, it may well to the person in the shop, and thus will not sell – again it becomes waste to deal with. Our responsibility as donors and consumers, does not go as far as simply giving, it means we have to ensure what we donate can and will be used, and to support the methods used to keep it from landfill. But how?
Longstanding charity Emmaus, which has operated internationally since 1971, recognises the challenge of getting consumers to see the donations that come into their centres as equal to the goods in any other shop. They engage with the commercial sectors – allowing many start up businesses and home owners a cheaper alternative when setting up, alongside affordable goods for local people in their hundreds of outlets. Reuse is central in their centres, and the companions who run them dedicate their time and ingenuity to recycling so often, that i have learnt endless amounts of new tips and tricks since i took up residency in their warehouse studio.
Now we are working together to show shoppers there is an alternative to the fast fashion industry, and its unsustainable consumption, by housing upcycled clothing brands and furniture alongside donated goods, in an alternative ‘department’ store. Piloted in the Stokes Croft store in central Bristol, the Upcycling Lounge will hold lines from Kecks, Emmaus vintage, and other local designer who source their goods from reuse and is set to launch summer 2016.
Are we excited? Errr just a bit!!
And also pleased that the idea of old being inferior, of second hand being waste, of charity shops being places for old tat is being challenged head on by the charity sector.
Emmaus values human beings and is working to tackle the consumer culture that creates the world of the haves and have not’s: “Serve those worse off than yourself before yourself. Serve the most needy first” is its global ethos, and how better to do so than to provide a viable alternative right in the commercial centre of a city meaning those who shop with them provide the income needed to sustain the solidarity projects that give to those most in need. If furniture is cheap, we can help some of the poor, but if we create a system of distribution and reuse at all levels, we can cater to all pockets and give to those in need – and give them beautiful, lasting foundations to build their homes upon. By recognising and paying for the innate value of our ‘waste’ we fund this work, reduce landfill, create a rich and varied market, and provide for all.
Nothing is waste!
Follow us online for further updates on how you can be involved, and more upcycling in action.