The NCWRP and the community wood recycling social enterprises that we help to set up and develop are committed to making as big a contribution as possible to environmental improvement and social justice.
Quite simply, we are in the business of saving resources and creating work and training for local disadvantaged people.
Most of the collected material would, at very best, have been “downcycled” into woodchip or, even worse, would have ended up decomposing in landfill sites – releasing CO2 and methane and contributing to climate change. In addition, by creating jobs, training and volunteering opportunities, we are helping people to develop confidence and self-esteem and learn a range of useful transferable skills that will help them to get back into paid work.
How are we doing?
In 2017 we rescued over 20,000 tonnes of wood, nearly half of which was reused. This reuse included separating/repairing pallets, providing the community with wood for DIY and building projects, making a huge range of wood products and selling literally thousands of sacks of firewood and kindling during the winter.
Although our environmental achievements are significant, it’s the social side of our work that we’re truly proud of. In 2017 nationwide our enterprises provided training and work experience places for more than 600 local unemployed people, many of whom went on to find permanent employment within the network, or in a related profession.
In 2017 the network also provided over 180 jobs, the majority of which were full-time. Employees are typically drawn from the pool of volunteers wherever possible, ensuring that people who may have been turned away from other jobs due to prejudice or personal history are given a fair chance at steady work. It also helps ensure that all of our staff are proven workers invested in the project.
Trainee Case Studies
Here are some stories from just a few of the people who’ve benefited from their time with us (names have been changed to protect our volunteers’ confidentiality):
Community wood recyclers work with people with learning difficulties. Entrepreneur George describes how Rob, a volunteer with learning difficulties, has developed since arriving at the enterprise:
“It’s boosted his confidence hugely because he feels part of a team. It’s absolutely changed his life. When he first came, he was very quiet, but now we can’t shut him up! He’s learnt lots of skills: for example, he’s gained a health and safety qualification — a CSCS card — and was overjoyed when he passed that.”
George stresses the benefits for Rob and others like him:
“Rob is always improving. He’s learning all the time on the wood, and socially he’s a better person, more rounded, confident, and outgoing. I would say it’s been absolutely life changing for him, and it’s worth emphasizing that through builders working with us, they are giving people like Rob, who otherwise wouldn’t have a work opportunity, a chance to change their life. That to me is invaluable.”
John’s life got off to a rocky start. He suffered a troubled childhood and responded by drinking heavily from the age of 16. In his twenties he lost his job and started taking heroin; life became increasingly chaotic and he found himself on a downward spiral that led to a criminal record and sleeping rough. When John’s girlfriend became pregnant he was determined to put his life on track, but his background made it hard to find a job, so when he heard about a training scheme at the local community wood recycling enterprise, he applied. John says:
“Getting back into the routine and discipline of work was difficult. I’d started to think I wasn’t worthy of a job, or not good enough, but I was able to learn new skills and felt my contribution was really worth something. The team were very supportive but also reinforced the fact that this was a real workplace and I couldn’t just roll in at 11 o’clock.”
Towards the end of his placement, John was offered a job with a carpenter who came to the enterprise to buy wood. He now works part-time and is frequently praised for his enthusiasm and positive attitude. John says:
“I was so lucky to work at the Project. It gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and I never could have imagined I would find a job by the end of it. It’s really transformed my life.”
Frank joined the ‘Real Work’ scheme after an extremely long time out of the system. A heroin user and a heavy drinker since early teens, Frank had a life in and out of prison, which meant that by the time he was referred to Community wood recycling in 2009, the last time he had held down a job was in 1988 — 21 years ago! Right from his interview he came across as someone who was determined to do whatever it takes to get back in to employment. And from day one at the enterprise he was a model employee. Although lacking in skills and far away from the habits and disciplines of a job, his boss described him as “consistent, and dedicated”. He also said that he could be relied upon to do any task and is prepared to learn. In Frank’s words,
“If I was left to my own devices to find work I wouldn’t get anywhere.”
Over the months he stabilized, learnt more and more and became increasingly useful. Wind forward 2 years, and Frank has a secure place to live, has left his drug and alcohol use far behind and is now a permanent paid member of staff – he makes great wood products and on Saturdays runs the shop!