Trash to Treasure: We visit the SUEZ Renew Hub

Posted on: 27 February 2023 in Issue 5

Ann Bickerstaffe (Senior Procurement Manager), Dave Hobson (Mail and Transport Manager), Sam Hay (Waste and Recycling Officer) visit SUEZ Renew Hub, with Darren Lockett (Production Operations Manager, Suez)

A Utopia for reuse and upcycling, The Renew Hub in Manchester is selling everyday waste items salvaged from household collections to the general public, with all proceeds going to charity. Representatives from the University of Liverpool recently visited the Hub to find out more.

Across the globe, two billion tonnes of waste is generated annually. We have a limited supply of resources, and if we continue to consume the way we do, purchasing single-use and short-lived products, eventually we will run out of these resources. Waste should no longer be viewed as useless, but as something that can be harnessed as a resource. The current ‘linear’ system, where everyday products are made, used and then disposed, has to change towards a circular system, where products and raw materials are reused as much as possible.

The Renew Hub was opened in 2021, and aims to reclaim the value of household items through repair and upcycling. Suez are the university’s main waste management provider, and handle over 1000 tonnes of waste from the university annually. Suez believe that discarded goods, not least the millions of tonnes of household waste items that end up in recycling centres each year, should be reused to generate economic, environmental and social value as part of the social economy.

Suez have donation containers located across the Household Waste Recycling Centres they operate across Greater Manchester, where local residents can donate unwanted items rather than putting them to waste. The hub then serves as the centre of operations, where the items are taken to before being cleaned and prepared for resale, or selected for upcycling. Some of the items are distributed to one of the three Renew shops located in Greater Manchester, which are operated by Suez. The shops sell pre-loved household items, including homeware, garden furniture, toys, sports equipment and books. Some of the higher value and upcycled items are sold on their Ebay page, where items can be purchased and collected from the Hub. There are also monthly ‘markets’ held at the Hub, where local residents can visit the Hub and purchase items directly from there. There is a monthly bike market, as well as a general market for the sale of all other items. There was an opportunity to purchase items on the day, which included the purchase of a poster, a footstool and even some loft insulation, showing the variety of items that are available. Some of the household items and furniture is also given to local charities, who collect from the Hub and donate to those in need. All of the money raised goes to good causes, with a minimum of £100,000 to the GM Mayor’s Charity, and £220,000 to the R4GM community fund every year, which funds community group projects in the local area focussing on reducing waste.

Not only is the Hub reducing waste, reusing unwanted items and increasing recycling rates, the Hub also provides training and employment in green skilled jobs. Suez have partnerships in place with local businesses and charities, such as Recycling Lives, Touchwood and the Manchester Bike Kitchen. Recycling Lives have a charity arm, who have a base full time at the Hub, where they support people recently released from prison to learn new skills and reduce re-offending. They run an 8-week programme with ex-offenders, focussing on the repair and servicing of electrical items, providing them with vital skills and experience.

Sam Hay, Waste and Recycling Officer, said “I was amazed to see the scale and variety of items at the hub, and it’s staggering to think that the majority of these items would have otherwise been disposed of. Not only is the facility preventing huge amounts of items from going to waste, but it’s also giving the local community the option to purchase items that they may not otherwise have been able to, at a heavily discounted rate. We all had a fantastic morning, and I’d like to thank Darren and the team for inviting us over. We have certainly come away with a number of ideas, and we’re looking forward to incorporating some of these across the university”.

The university has been working closely with Suez to review our waste management activities, identifying various areas for improvement. We are moving forward on a number of initiatives, including reuse and resale platforms, reducing the amount of waste that is generated, as well as increasing the percentage of waste that is reused and recycled. Our goal is for the university to prevent the production of any unnecessary waste, as well as improving our resource efficiency.