Reuse Charities See Stagnating Donations

The Furniture Re-use Network (FRN) Social Impact Report 2017 published yesterday (14 September) shows a “stagnation” in donations of furniture and electrical equipment to reuse charities in the UK, despite a growing demand for second-hand goods.

Reuse charities can be a lifeline for people in crisis by providing much needed essential furniture and electrical goods. The FRN report, shows that in 2017, just 3.45 million items were reused in the UK by the voluntary reuse sector compared to 3.48 million items in 2016.

This decline has then an impact on the number of households helped every year thanks to reused items which drops from 1.51 million in 2016 to 1.50 million in 2017 despite an increase in demand by people in need across the country.

Craig Anderson, Furniture Re-use Network CEO says: “This trend is indeed concerning as we reaching less people in need of furniture and electrical goods but not surprising. For a number of years, our members have been reporting a reduction in donations and furthermore in the quality of donations.

“There are many factors to this decline which is a combination of a decrease or stagnation in retail sales, political uncertainty and austerity, people holding onto furniture longer and a boom in online community market places.

“So although there is a growing demand and a growing need for affordable, good quality furniture, there simply isn’t the supply available through conventional public donations.

“In order to mitigate this, we, as the Furniture Re-use Network, have been working hard to strengthen and diversify our commercial partnerships with the retail and manufacturing sector to supply our sector with essential household goods.”

Knock-On Effect

Kelvin Hughes, Newbury Community Resource Centre CEO and FRN member says: “In the last year, we supplied nearly 30,000 people with reused furniture and electrical appliances and we don’t anticipate this demand decreasing. Every year, more and more people come through our doors in need of essential items from washing machines to curtains for the bedroom.

“We have seen ourselves diversifying our activities and are now working with IKEA and John Lewis stores in our area as well as with our local Household Waste Recycling Centre to support the supply of goods needed.”

This shortfall in donations also has a knock-on effect on the environmental impact as we see a drop in tonnage of waste and recycling diverted (117,450 tonnes in 2017 compared to 118,350 tonnes in 2016) and CO2 saved (125,600 tonnes in 2017 compared to 126,500 tonnes in 2016).

“We have seen ourselves diversifying our activities and are now working with IKEA and John Lewis stores in our area as well as with our local Household Waste Recycling Centre to support the supply of goods needed.”

However, the voluntary reuse sector supports their local community in other ways, and the FRN Social Impact Report 2017 shows an increase of people employed (5000) and people supported through volunteering, training and work placements (49,560).

Kelvin Hughes says: “Our Community Furniture, Growing 2gether, RENEWAL and Pulling Together Projects see more and more volunteers each year, and it is a joy to be able to support disadvantaged people in our local communities to give practical help to others.”

Craig Anderson, says: “FRN members rely on furniture donations to provide essential household goods to those in need but also to provide employment and volunteering opportunities. Despite this, our sector finds other ways of supporting those who can find themselves on the fringes of society due to ill-heath, disability or hardship.

“Whether through employment, training or volunteering opportunities, our members give people a supportive, friendly and respectful environmental in which to be.

“It is with pride that we can see how our sector has sustainability at its heart. We work with member organisations to ensure they have a sustainable supply of goods to support people in poverty and in need of employment; to have a sustainable environment for sustainable charities to continue to offer this help.

“Most of all, it is to give those that find themselves socially excluded, a house they can call their home and a future they can call their own.”

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