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Recycling brings work to the unemployed – Case Reuse Centre

Promoting and enabling reuse, upcycling and do it yourself – this is what the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre is about. The centre employs 450 people in sorting, customer service, logistics and repair. Most of the employees have had difficulties in getting access to working life.

The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre is an example of realizing the aims of a Nordic welfare society both in terms of environment and social justice. Reuse Centre is a non-profit social enterprise, of which the main goal is to promote a change into a more sustainable lifestyle.

© Emmi Korhonen, Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre

The public opinion recognizes the environmental threats and people seem to be ready for a change. We just need to give guidance and push them forward.Katja Viberg, Reuse Center

Second-hand stores and repair services

The main business focuses on sale of second-hand goods, such as furniture, household items, electronic equipment, bicycles, and clothes, but they also provide a number of services.

The Reuse Centre runs eight stores in the Helsinki metropolitan area and also a nationwide online store. The company operates workshops, where all the electronic appliances and bicycles to be sold are given an authorized repair. All the second-hand materials originate from donations. Reuse Centre runs an upcycling collection “Plan B” for reworked furniture, clothing and accessories.

Currently, the availability of second-hand materials is stable. In the future however, decreasing quality of goods, such as clothing and furniture, may lead to limited availability of high-quality materials. It is also possible that in the future people prefer non-material services instead of goods, which would also shift the business of Reuse Centre further towards production of services.

Environmental education and craft supplies

In addition to reuse, Reuse Centre operates on a wide range of services. They provide environmental education and recreational service concepts for schools, communities, and companies. One of their service concepts includes providing schools and communities with second-hand craft supplies free of charge. The company emphasizes education as a tool for a sustainable lifestyle. In the stores, there are wardrobes that include educative material on distinguishing long-lasting and high-quality materials.

Saved amount of raw materials: 46 700 tons

Reuse of goods saves natural resources as well as reduces waste and GHG emissions. Reusing is the key in waste reduction. However, the transition to circular economy requires rethinking the whole system in order to diminish war material use. The up-cycled products and authorized repair of goods are examples on increasing the value of a second-hand product. The savings in resources and emissions by purchasing a second-hand item instead a new one are listed for the customer in the receipt. This offers people data in support of better decision-making. According to estimates by Reuse Centre, the reuse carried out via their operations decreased the demand for virgin raw materials in 2018 by ca. 46 700 tons.

Social justice

The Reuse Centre employs 450 people. The majority of them are unemployable and hired on pay subsidies. The supported work can provide the first experience on Finnish labor markets for immigrants, help returning to work after ordeals in life or provide a person with totally new skills easing the employment later.

The main challenge in the upcycling business at the moment is finding skilled personnel. Due to limitations in the legislation for pay subsidies, the duration of the employment period of each of the supported employees is short. This affects the planning of the operations and requires a high input of time from the permanent staff.

The economy of Reuse Centre business is dependent on social employment support, even though the company’s turnover exceeds public support. The same concept could be taken in use abroad to promote social well-being hand in hand with environmental development. All in all, this business model is well-established in Finland. The economy of the company if stable and the income is used in developing the operations. Demand for high-quality second-hand goods is increasing along with rise in environmental awareness.

Reuse Centre is operating in the Helsinki metropolitan area with main aim at environmental actions and resource efficiency. There are other recycling centres around Finland. The operation of the centres varies from mainly employment support to extensive reuse and upcycling actions.

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