Wood working for people and planet
An organisation in Bristol which stops wood being sent to landfill is providing both environmental and social benefits. Lauren Collett visits Bristol Wood Recycling Project to find out more
There is wood everywhere: piles of old scaffolding planks; old floorboards stacked up against each other; plus new creations that have been made from them, such as garden tables and benches.
However, although it may not initially appear so, the Bristol Wood Recycling Project (BWRP) is about more than reusing wood that could have been dumped in landfill sites.
The project, based in Cattle Market Road, near Temple Meads railway station, provides volunteering opportunities for people from all walks of life, and has just appointed a volunteering manager to enhance the service.
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Jasmine Brien, who took on the position two months ago, says: "Our focus is on social inclusion, and we employ volunteers from many different walks of life, ranging from people in very demanding, highly paid jobs, who want to do some manual work, to people who have experienced long-term unemployment.
"It's my job to know what is going on for each volunteer, and to know who is lacking confidence in certain areas and needs more support, or who could benefit from the challenge of learning some additional skills.
"I also make sure there is a healthy rotation of work for the volunteers, so that nobody spends the whole day doing the same task, and that they get opportunities to develop skills in the workshop."
Until Jasmine was appointed, staff involved in other jobs also ran the volunteering programme.
Tim Beasley, shop and site manager for BWRP says having a dedicated volunteering manager is aimed at providing better supervision and support for volunteers.
"We rely on volunteers and are amazingly grateful for the wonderful work they do for us and although we're open to it, we don't want to rely on funding; being self-funded is sustainable," he says.
"One-off donations would be great, for example, to buy a new van which doesn't keep breaking down.
"But we wouldn't want to rely on funding to employ someone because as soon as that funding's cut, they've lost their job."
BWRP has been running since 2004 as a not-for-profit company, collecting wood destined for landfill and then creating something with it, selling it or recycling it.
The project has recycled a total of 1,867 tons of wood since it began, and recently appointed a new workshop manager, Mike Smith, in addition to employing Jasmine to oversee the volunteers.
Because the project is completely self-funded, with only six full-time staff, it depends on the group of about 20 regular volunteers, who undertake tasks such as collecting wood, de-nailing, cleaning, sanding and cutting.
Tim says: "What we sell here is a third to a half of the price of what you'd be paying in your average DIY store.
"People are starting to realise throwing away stuff is not good."
He adds: "People still don't understand how bad the situation is.
"They need to learn about re-using more – and that needs to start in schools."
Jon Watts, collections manager, recalls the old Hengrove School being demolished: "In their gym, they had hard wood flooring – about 200 yards long and 75 yards wide.
"By chance they found us and called up to ask if we wanted to take it. It went almost immediately."
Tim shows me some stair treads the staff have recently cleaned up.
"We're going to sell them on as really nice sturdy shelves… with two holes in.
"It just gives them a bit of character!"
To find out more about volunteering at Bristol Wood Recycling Project, email volunteering manager Yasmine Brien on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 972 3219.
She will arrange for a visit to BWRP, and anyone who wishes to get involved can sign a form and then come in for a first day, which will include some training.
Volunteers are provided with lunch and their travel costs are reimbursed. They can come in for a maximum of two days a week, and there are usually between two and six volunteers on site a day.
Anyone who has volunteered for the project for 10 full days can become a member, and attend the quarterly members' meetings, and be involved in the way the business is run.