Learning how to reuse more: The importance of innovative training



Fiona Cummins, Head of Community at Cory Group, explains how Cory has developed a new UK-wide qualification in reuse which can help drive a more circular economy.

At a time when the cost of living is a growing concern for many, and with ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of waste we create, finding ways to get the most out of the items we buy has never been more important.

Reducing the environmental impact of the waste we produce will be vital for achieving net zero. And the best way to do this is to reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place. This can be achieved in several ways, including more conscious consumption and finding ways to extend the life of the items we buy.

You might think that a company which runs an energy-from-waste (EfW) plant wouldn’t want to encourage people to reduce the amount they throw out. However, at Cory, we are committed to supporting the waste hierarchy, which means supporting initiatives which can help to increase the reuse of materials and reduce the strain we put on the natural world.

Reuse and refurbishment
Cory’s trial learning where local residents were taught how to reuse more effectively.

This is important to us from a sustainability perspective, but also as part of our wider efforts to foster good relationships with the local communities where we operate.

Cory operates one of the UK’s largest EfW plants, which turns waste from London and the South-East into enough partially renewable baseload electricity to power around 195,000 homes a year. The plant is located in the London Borough of Bexley, and we also process non-recyclable waste for the borough, meaning that Bexley Council is an important partner for us.

As part of our ongoing work with the Council, we identified a desire amongst community groups and local residents to not only acquire skills in upcycling and reuse but to gain a qualification in the subject which they could then put to use in a personal or professional setting. However, the qualification currently offered did not have a practical component and required updating.

To address this gap, Cory and Bexley Council worked with CIWM and training provider Skill-Cert to develop a new, updated Level 2 Award in Practical Reuse and Refurbishment.

Before the qualification was formally launched, Cory hosted a trial at our EfW facility with a group of local residents to test the content and ensure that we had a qualification which fit the bill and provided the right blend of theory and practical skills.

During the 5-day trial course, residents learned about the waste hierarchy, waste legislation impacting waste disposal, what can be resold, fire safety standards, the differences between waste recycling terminology and differences between types of waste renewal.  

Attendees also learned how to refurbish furniture which included stripping, varnishing and painting, as well as the health and safety measures associated with the process. Everyone left the course with a newly refurbished piece of furniture and a Level 1 qualification, as well as increased confidence and enthusiasm to tackle similar projects in the future.

The workshop was such a success that we are planning on running another one in May this year.

The workshop was such a success that we are planning on running another one in May this year. Attendees had a wide range of reasons for attending, including wanting to advance in their current careers, being able to carry out furniture repairs, or simply gaining confidence about recycling and reuse.

We used this insight to ensure that the qualification could be used in a variety of settings, rather than being limited in its application, and be delivered by training organisations across the UK. This could include supporting volunteers who work in community reuse shops, upskilling people who are seeking employment, or in prisons to help inmates gain employment once they leave.

The new qualification is now live and provides a valuable resource which can not only help us do our bit for the planet but also equip people with skills for life. 

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