the london reuse network launches ..

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The ecomodo girls were out on the town last night at the launch party of the London Reuse Network – a fantastic initiative instigated by the LCRN (London Community Resource Network) to help turn waste back into ‘good’ goods.

Currently there are too many quality items going to landfill (furniture, toys, appliances, wood, textile, electrical equipment, bicycles – you get the picture) so the idea of the LRN is to create an integrated reuse service for London delivered through a community-led reuse and repair network. With a bunch of backing from Boris and LWaRB, this means all this stuff, instead of going to landfill, will get picked up, repaired and redistributed back to Londoners. As well as physical infrastructure for storage and an efficient transportation strategy the LRN aims to train local people with practical green skills to fix up, repair and upcycle the goods.

Guest speakers included Wayne Hemingway and Dr Adam Read from the AEA. Wayne delightfully re-counted stories of his thrifty upbringing with ends of the soap in jam jars; how he got started fixing up Dr. Martin boots with a blow-torch to seal the soles and reselling them in Camden Market; to the success of this years Vintage at Goodwood with 50,000 festival-goers celebrating the reuse of clothing, music and culture.

After the talks people were invited to ask questions. At this point designers and architects got a bit of a slating from a member of the audience. “Why can’t architects/designers just design things so there is much little waste and re-use materials?” Matthew Thomson’s (Chief Executive of LCRN) rightly pointed out that certain materials have a life and after that (especially in the building industry) it would be unsafe to reuse certain materials.

As a designer working in the industry for over 17 years, I have tried this fight this fight from the inside out. Great efforts have been made to change the way products are manufactured but like everything it’s an evolution not a revolution. Many more products today, as opposed to 10 years ago, are being made from materials that can and have been recycled and this change has predominantly happened through consumer demand not policy. At the end of the day most manufacturers still want to cut their bottom line – taking the “cheaper” option.

The biggest issue for me is” built in obsolescence.” Manufacturers are not designing products that are robust and easy to fix. The easy repair of their goods creates longevity meaning less things will be purchased – and this is not good for business.

From the outside in, using Ecomodo, we hope to change consumer behaviour to drive change in manufacture. By enabling people to borrow items instead of buying new we are delivering an alternative to retail and as consumer understanding grows, we can use this as an intervention. If they choose to still buy and not borrow, they will start to consider the life-time of the product – how many times they will use it and in turn lend it out. They will begin to think of household products as assets and not just throw-away. Using consumer demand we can sway manufacturers to make robust, fixable products built to last.

It is great to be at the start of The London Reuse Network as this powerful initiative can too make people think differently about where, how and why they purchase the products they do. For it the work – it needs to have complete consumer appeal – so more vintage – less charity shop. This year has seen a massive upsurge in the trend of vintage so in order to capture the heart, minds and purse strings of our consumers perhaps they need to think about what’s next – beyond vintage.

image borrowed from LCRN

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One Response to “the london reuse network launches ..”

  1. rosie dorey Says:

    This London Re-use Network is exactly the sort of idea that Professor Paul Connett talked about at his talk here in Guernsey last Monday. He painted a fantastic vision of a ‘Re-use & Repair Centre where items that at present get ruined by the weather at Longue Hougue, could be repaired, value added back to them and then re-sold back to us. Including all the things that are currently advertised on ecycle. Creating an architecturally interesting building to house the scheme and incorporating a cafe over looking the sea and Herm, and maybe a community ‘workbench’ would make this a desirable place to visit to look for bargains. The advantages would be a reduced waste pile while also creating several social benefits.

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