Knowledge from London Library of Things

( 10+ minutes read)

Part 1 – the context

Once upon an average December morning of the year 2017, and almost two years after the birth of the Oxford Circular Collective (CirColl) community action group, Alex (myself) and Maurice went on a taster tour at London’s first – and the UK’s second – Library of Things (LoT) in West Norwood. Alex is the chair of CirColl and Maurice is a keen supporter of the Oxford LoT idea. This is in pursuit of exploring the possibility of starting up a Library of Things in Oxford too!

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Maurice walking towards the two LoT containers

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From left to right: Alexandra Mates (chair and founder of Circular Collective); Rebecca (Bex) Trevalyan (Director of #team #resources); Maurice (keen LoT supporter)

Relatively speaking, the ‘library of things’ is a recent global and national trend. Without claiming that I have spent hours thoroughly researching this, I decided that you’d be satisfied at this point to read about a few key points from the first two result pages of googling “library of things history”.

A quirky reference number 6 published by American Libraries Magazine under the wikipedia Library of Things article,  suggests that “libraries loaning “stuff” isn’t a new concept. Framed paintings were available for checkout at the Newark (N.J.) Public Library back in 1904”. At present, there seem to be a number of ways of referring to organisations that lend stuff: “tool libraries”, “toy libraries”, “kitchen libraries”, or “library of things”, etc, depending on their focus.  The first tool lending library started in in 1976 in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, about 40+ tool libraries opened up around North America, as reported by the one of the world’s flagship tool library in Toronto, Canada – The Sharing Depot (opened in 2013).

Going beyond that, in 2017 there is an estimated number of 80 “tool libraries” across North America, Europe and Asia. The rise of the concept of “library of things” seems to have emerged and strengthened thanks to a relatively recent movement of public libraries across the USA that wished to expand the range of items they would lend, to re-think of what value libraries could really bring to society via lending, but also as a response to the growing awareness of the sharing economy (sadly I couldn’t find a conclusive start year for the start of this trend). The wikipedia page Library of Things that I mentioned above lists 12 library of things within public book libraries – from Ann Arbor District Library to Sacremento Public Library; and 7 world-wide free standing LoTs – from Leila (oldest, opened in Berlin in 2010) to Spullenier (opened in Utrecht in 2017).

The reasons for these trends are countless, and we’ll let you click on a few links from the above to gain a flavour for them. What we can say now is that my (Alex’s) key reason for it is that I like to find and act upon solutions for the world’s social and environmental problems, that I find the concept of ‘waste’ fascinating and that I think our human civilisation really needs to re-conceptualise it in order to healthily integrate it into our currently dysfunctional, unnatural economic system; and that the library of things is one solution for wasted product capacity, wasted material resources and wasted consumer’s financial resources. Meanwhile, Maurice’s reasons include frustration at the wastefulness of our society, particularly having lived in places where the habit is to refuse/reduce/repair/re-use/re-purpose and recycle before throwing away. But he also thinks that something like a library of things has such a lot of potential for bringing people together, to share not only material objects but ideas, skills and company.

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We’re assuming that by now many of you will be curious to know how it went and what we’ve learnt! We arrived there and we met Fiona, the volunteer (actual, retired) librarian in charge. She gave Bex a call, we were introduced, had a little natter, and shown into the conference room c/o of Community Hub where we were shown the general presentation that they show to other groups interested in setting up their own library of things.

Formerly of Impact Hub Brixton, Bex gives a clear impression that she has a wealth of knowledge, that she is a community-and-solutions-focused person, and that she excels in looking after resources and people, including newbies like us! It’s important to note at this point that at she insisted on us not replicating their current model, but to keep an eye out on their evolution, learn from other library of things, and keep in touch with them.

Another insistence was to bare in mind that the London Library of Things is now looking into creating a ‘platform‘ of Library of Things, in which multiple library locations are ‘scaled-up’ into a well-governed, networked infrastructure in order to reduce cost and improve their members’ renting experience, ‘cos at the end of the day, their mission is to make renting better than buying! And last but not least, because I may quite likely miss some of the detail, we’d like you to regard this blog post as a conversation too, thus please leave your questions and comments in the section below.

 

Flourishing neighbourhoods

Slide 4 of Bex’s presentation: Creating thousands of participation opportunities

Part 2 – their story and parallels to Oxford context

How it all started

  • Similar to Oxforshire CAG Network, there was a already a wealth of other local community groups with a similar ethos and appetite for community and environmental well-being. Asked by Maurice, Bex elucidated that there already was a fair amount of interchange of people, knowledge and items between these community groups.
  • Similar to Oxfordshire CAG Network, they had the support of local platforms powering some of these projects, such as Crystal Palace Transition Town, Incredible Edible Lambeth, or Participatory City London.
  • The three directors of the London LoT preferred to envisage participatory and flourishing communities, where high streets aren’t bland and sterile with for-profit oriented brands such as pawn brokers and bookies, yet with thriving and creative community-driven organisations.
  • Last but not least, London LoT are aware of the current global discourse in consumption trends: world-leading organisations  such as The World Economic Forum, or PWC are announcing that “All products will have become services. Shopping is a distant memory in the city of 2030, whose inhabitants…borrow what they need on demand”, or that “By 2025, PwC projects total transactions in the UK sharing economy could reach £140 billion.”

 

The flagship

Slide 11 of Bex’s presentation: “Meet the team”

The South London ‘flagship’

  • Mission: London LoT crew considered it vital to have a concise mission statement, to have this question clear in their minds and in those of their volunteers : ‘what we they working towards?’ – To make borrowing better than buying. And by better they mean: more affordable, more convenient, and more socially rewarding.
  • How it works (focus on the member borrower):
    • browse the online catalogue powered by the Lend-Engine software;
    • sign up online to become a member for free – proof of address needed; this will be set at £30 for the future, with a possible membership banding according to affordability;
    • borrow things online for a small fee (£1-£15 / day depending on demand) – no till at location;
    • pickup at library;
    • be shown by the librarian how to use and maintain well the item;
    • return item;
    • be chased up by librarian if not returned on time;
    • members are also encouraged to host, lead or attend a workshop!
  • The members:  London LoT routinely monitored the locations of members who have borrowed, and generally they are very local to the area, mainly arrive by foot, and footfall is currently strongly linked to the proximity and to the association with the Community Hub where they are based – this is a bit hidden away so there is not really any ‘passing trade’. Tthey would like this to be a little bit different, so read on to see what they’ve got in mind. Some members would have grandchildren over for school holidays and need to keep them entertained with roler blades and ukuleles; another would want to volunteer at the local church to clean their carpets and would need a hoover for it; others would be elderly, skilled with DYI tools and with time on their hands to play with the tools and volunteer for how to maintain them. Another key remark by Bex was that they found it very important to maintain the community flourishing vibe.
  • The volunteers: There was a very strong focus on empowering people to allow them to apply what they are best at, create a new role if it didn’t exist already to match the skills of the keen volunteer and the need of the LoT, entrusting them with well defined responsibilities, and making them feel welcome, well looked after and part of a fun team. They have a fairly large pool of volunteers who saw the roles advertised on various channels, including the local shops and community hub; some came and went, and some stayed for longer and are even more closely involved with the project, e.g. a local resident who started as an avid borrower and is now an invaluable data analyst.
  • The team: As of November 2017, London LoT currently has 3 full time directors, one of which is salaried, who enable a large number of volunteers to have a working experience.
  • The things: they have categorised items to lend into: cleaning; cooking and hosting; gardening; DIY; adventuring; & hobbying. London LoT collect data on the 60 most wanted items via a wishlist board to inform their stock decisions and therefore financial viability, as display and storage space is cost, with revenue implications. They have looked at the data on borrowing and identified the most sought after items and intend to reduce the number of items they have in the library based on the data on past borrowing.
  • The Data:
    • Membership: 850+ members; 2500+ borrowed items.
    • (Top borrowed) from place 10 to 1, the top most borrowed things are: sewing machine, wallpaper stripper, ukulele, pressure washer compact, jig saw, garden strimmer, hand sander, steam cleaner, power drill (combi), carpet cleaner.
    • London LoT collect data on most 60 wanted items via a wishlist board to inform their stock decisions and therefore financial viability, as display and storage space is cost / revenue.
  • Opening hours: London LoT is generally open between 10 and 4 three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). They are constrained by the access hours of the Community Hub and see value in longer or different hours if they had more choice.
  • Events: The events bring members together, and often more events are requested from the LoT as they like the feeling of coming and doing things together. Members can organise their own events.
  • Business model: In terms of fundraising for a suitable trading space and an initial healthy stock of things, London LoT crews won a kickstarter campaign of £15,000 – and would recommend other groups to aim for higher – i.e. £20,000 – and to consider match funding as well. When attempting to predict revenue, they took into consideration the space size, the number of high quality items and price per borrow, number of active members and opening hours, number of fundraising events, consultancy workshops and other sources of revenue; when attempting to predict expenditure, they considered salaries, stock & maintenance, marketing & events consummables, insurance and other. The average monthly revenue just from renting (open for 3 days a week) is £1,500.
  • The nuts and bolts:
    • In case of no returns – using the ‘borrowing promise’ for both lender and borrower, working on trust, good communication, good will and community-oriented ethos;
    • Liability and insurance – they use liability waivers to cover injuries at events or during use of items; they are covered by Zurich insurance for public, employee and product liability; they also referred to bolt-on insurance for extra activities not covered by a standard insurance package. Items aren’t currently insured if damaged during use, and ask members to contribute towards the cost of parts / item replacement. They are currently looking into better solutions on this front;
    • No deposit is charged, in order to encourage actual borrowing and support those on low income;
    • Item safety: PAT testing; use testing (i.e. it works as it should);
    • Item maintenance: have a network of repairers and tinkerers at hand, and they are actively consolidating partnerships with manufacturers for replacing items when needed;
    • But at the end if the day, good and diverse media of communication and interpersonal interaction before item is borrowed increases care for the item;

 

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A mandolin for rent, a volunteer’s T-shirt and branded merchandise.

 

Struggles edited

Slide 17 of Bex’s presentation: Gearing up emotionally for a rocky journey seems like a must.

 

The current Library of Things struggles

By the end of the presentation, for me the most encouraging part was that Bex wasn’t afraid to be frank – both open about what they do and how, but also about the trajectory of their development and  changes. She warned us that the infrastructure to make things easy and to lower the running costs isn’t sufficiently developed. As you could see from the comments of leaders of world-wide library of things in the image above, there are challenges on many fronts: having a feasible revenue model, building trust and strong partnerships with stockists, having a good organisational structure and clear roles, responsibilities and volunteer engagement, having a complementary organisation attached to the library of things, volunteering for years, or simply acknowledging that sometimes the solution to the world’s problems isn’t to come up with ‘the best idea’ that would fix the it… but to take responsibility, have faith in your own judgement and creativity, and to do a job well done for what one has already set out to do.

Bex and the London LoT guys are now embarked themselves on a second major evolution of their own project, which is to create the support platform that would bring multiple libraries, partners, systems and members together into a resilient organisation. And she felt confident that they are on the right track and that they are now experienced, and creative enough to make it into a success.

The West Norwood LoT has actually closed their activities at their current location as of December 9th 2017. But they are opening again around March 2018 at Crystal Palace, and they will do an even better job than the one so far! And we’ll be watching them, reaching out at the right moments, and staying inspired by their awesome flagship project. We are very grateful to all of them and respectfully applaud their efforts so far for creating a true sharing, nurturing, smart and circular organisation!

Building our own Oxford Library of Things

Did you enjoy reading so far and would like to take part in helping us start-up Library of Things in Oxford? You can comment below, send us an email at oxfordcircularcollective@gmail.com, join the conversations on our facebook group, or attend our next meeting Feb 6th 18:30, location tbc.

 

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Left to righ: Alys #community #events volunteer, and Alex pretending to play the instruments while bugging Maurice for an ‘official’ photo.

 

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Irregular News – October 2017

Towards Oxford’s Library of Things – Get involved!

Really exciting times are ahead for Oxford, and for the Circular Collective. Last week, at our Report Launch Party, we announced our next great ambition: to be the driving force for bringing to our own city London’s Library of Things.

This next stage in our history builds up on the work we’ve done so far and will give a strengthened purpose for our collections – sorting – deliveries system. Why buy when you can borrow? From good quality camping gear to DYI tools, from sports equipment to fondue sets, the library of things will set out to protect natural resources, the environment, people’s financial resources and community cohesion all at once.

Interested in being a co-founder? Join us on 28 November 2017 18:30 – 20:00 upstairs at the East Oxford Community Centre. For RSPV and details, please email Alex at oxfordcircularcollective@gmail.com. Or if you’d like to see us earlier than that, find our stall at the next exciting CAG Skillshare networking event 11 November 10:00 – 17:00.

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We have a new logo!

Heard about our new logo and just can’t wait to see it? Then here it is! One year later and lots of back and forth emails, our beloved graphic design volunteer, supporter and friend Ana Iugulescu from London has taken our look to the next level. We’ve already changed our business cards and flyers, and slowly but surely we’ll be replacing the old logo in all corners of our publications.

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…and we have our first annual report too!

At the Report Launch part, not only we publicised our intention to initiate Oxford’s library of things and showed to the world our new logo, but also we gave out ten hard copies of our first Annual Report 2016/2017. From amount of redistributed items per circular stream – reuse, repair, recycle, upcycle, refuse – to tales of events in relation to achieving our objectives, accounts, and finally looking forwards… we wish to make it as easy as possible to existing and prospective stakeholders to understand who we are, what we do, and to hopefully work together.

Page 3 of the annual report 2016-2017.

 

Expanding our horizons: East Oxford Farmer’s Market

The end of September saw us experimenting with generating a sustainable revenue at the fabulous East Oxford Farmer’s Market. Huge thanks to Elise for having us there, and to Gaby, Daniela and Jane for tending the stall. We really enjoyed being there, as their ethos is to provide people with good quality, locally sourced produce, cultivating an ethical and sustainable lifestyle. Watch this space for potential upcoming visits: http://www.eastoxfordmarket.org.uk/weekly-newsletter.

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And as always, thank you for reading so far!

 

Irregular News – September 2017

  1. Close of collections

Out with the old, in with the new! As of September 2017, the Circular Collective is moving out of the shed and thinking of ways to grow, meaning we must temporarily close our collections service. One of the Collective advantage over those charity bags silently delivered through doors that residents may rest assured that your items do go to charity and aren’t nicked! Nevertheless, in the meantime, if you still wanted to pass forwards your items in a convenient way, the charity bags are the alternative. Another option would be to consult on arranging a (non carbon neutral) van collection with Emmaus, British Heart Foundation, Sue Ryader & other local charities.

 

2. Save the big dates! …working backwards:

  • 26th October 18:30 – 20:30 @ Restore Garden Cafe, Manzil Way. Free eventbrite ticketed entrance : 1st Annual Report & 2nd Logo Launch (over wine and cheese)

  • 12th October 18:30 – 21:00 @ location TBC. Upcycling workshop – making car litter bags from old T-shirts!

Keep an eye on our google Calendar on our website and facebook page, or real-time updates on twitter @circularcollect.

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3. Refocusing our reuse and repair

Almost two years of Circular Collective enabled us to gain a lot of insight into building a local sustainable circular economy. And it’s time for something new, and something better.

Now we’re narrowing our focus towards collecting items for reuse and repair, considering that there is a large fairly ‘market gap’ for these circular material flows. With organisations such as Emmaus, Bicester Green, Bring and Fix it, Men’s Shed, and with an expected future rise of repair cafes in Oxfordshire, there is an ever-increasing need for a reverse-logistics infrastructure, from consumer-to-organisations. Considering that most of recycling collection and transportation is well covered by the local authority, it’s time to prove to the world of what is the next phase in a local circular economy! Keep an eye on our website as we are developing and evolving the new message.

 

4. Reduced mobility programme

Our group has been recently awarded with £450 by Oxford City Council small community grants to promote our service to households with reduced mobility, i.e. with no access to vehicle, or physically unable to take small quantities of items that need reuse or repair as donations to charities and repair enterprises. As part of the funding, we shall identify and service a minimum 30 households. The fund enables us to put together promotional material and host 5 workshops to attract volunteers and raise our profile. Kind regards to the council!

 

5. Jewelry upcycling

On 17 August we held a jewelry upcycling workshop using plastic carrier bags. We had 6 new guests, mainly from Climate Outreach. We will sell them at the East Oxford Farmer’s Market on the 30th September. Since September 2017 we also are very glad to have a new volunteer and artist Jane Yates, who also makes beautiful upcycled items, including jewelry.

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6. Thank you for reading! Speak soon ^^

Irregular News – July 2017

We hope you’ve really enjoyed the summer so far! Here are some updates from our group.
Open general meeting  – 25th July 18:30 – 20:30, ISIS Farmhouse pub
Want to hear more about our group, get involved with our plastic upcycling workshop in front of Lush store, get a sneak-peak and comment on our first ever Annual Report? Anyone more than welcome. Committee members, please send your agenda items as a reply, and once Lucie our sec sends you the report, bring your comments along to the meeting.
 
Searching for Secretary, Data Manager and Market Analyst
Exciting times are ahead for our group! We are very grateful for having secured a professional mentor for our group, and we plan to start a “Reduced Mobility Programme”. This will ‘market’ and offer our service to those who do not have the means or possibility to take their no-longer-needed items as donations to charities, bring banks, the recycling centre, etc. If you’re interested in supporting us for this programme via the roles above, please see our website for more details.
 
Swap Shops and Tandem Festival
We had another couple of swap shops this March and June, and the jewelry making workshop from upcycled plastic carrier bags at the Tandem Festival – a big thanks to the orgabnisers!
We bring the swap shops to both residents and students of Oxford alike at every beginning and end of term, knowing that a fair amount of students need to empty their accommodation rooms for term breaks, and a lot of their surplus items are perfectly reusable. The swap shops are a lot of fun, below are some pictures! If you’d like to be involved in any way, send us a reply.
Thank you to our new recruits
Last but not least, thank you to our latest Dan H., Alistair P., Toni H., Kim F. for the very valuable contributions for sorting, collections and delivery sessions, and Elena J. And Robbie R. for hosting the Tandem workshop!
 
Take care & keep in touch!
 
Alex
chair and founder

Irregular News – May 2017

Hot news! We’ve made things very easy. You can have a look at our gmail calendar of all our events – open to anyone both on our facebook page (click on the Calendar tab in the left hand side panel) and on our website.
So hopefully every time you have a relaxed cuppa tea, or you’re browsing away on facebook and your mind wonders “how can I be more involved with those funky guys” – have a quick peak at those calendars. Be it that you’re a veteran committee helper, our you’d just like to check out our faces 😀.
Keep it cool, keep it circular.
Yours,
Alexandra
chair and founder

Irregular News – April 2017

Preview
1. Hellos!

2. Swap Shop @ Turl Street Kitchen – 29 April 11am-2pm

3. CirColl meeting Tuesday 25 April @ East Oxford Community Centre
4. Looking for a Treasurer & committee restructuring
5. CAG Social @ County Hall – 27 April 7pm-9pm
6. We’ve been nominated for OCVA Awards!
7. Bring & Fix It collaboration
8. Let’s get upcycling Tandem Festival
9. Be a CirColl Social Hero!
10. Oxford Hub Ethical Network – Environment & Sustainability
11. Volunteer with us
 
Details
 
1. Hellos!
Hello everyone! It’s been a while since our last irregular email. We’ve got a number of exciting things going on, some are older news, some newer… nevertheless all worth a read. We’ve kept everything short to make it a nice work break distraction.
2. Swap Shop @ Turl Street Kitchen – 29 April 11am-2pm
Next weekend, we’re running a swap shop for the beginning of Trinity term, for both students and resident community. Set in the centre of Oxford in collaboration with Oxford Hub, this is a great opportunity to de-clutter your homes, find something else that you need and meet like minded people. There will be tea, coffee, refreshment, snacks, music and space to hang around. Bring along friends & share the word!
 
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3. CirColl meeting Tuesday 25 April 18:30 @ East Oxford Community Centre
A chance to meet the people of the group, see what we talk about, and see how you can be involved! Focus for next meeting is finalising the preparations for the swap shop, and on responding to invitations to showcase our group at other events such as the Tandem Festival. If you wish, please do submit agenda items to oxfordcircularcollective@gmail.com, otherwise the agenda will be put together on the date.
 
4. Looking for a Treasurer & committee restructuring
We’ve undergone some changes! As of February this year, we are proud to announce that Lucie Kenrick – our former Treasurer, and experienced professional PA has now taken the role of Main Secretary; Alexander Iordache has transitioned from the role of Secretary to that of Lead Mechanic! If you are a collection volunteer and would like to know how to fix your bike free of charge, and receive advice on what parts may need changing, iordache_alex@hotmail.com is your guy 😉
This means we are now looking for a Treasurer! We have complete and up-to-date accounts. If you or anyone you know are interested in volunteering for this role, please let us know.
 
5. CAG Social @ County Hall – 27 April 7pm-9pm
Join us for drinks and cool brothers from other community action groups (we’re a CAG too). Also, we’re sadly saying goodbye to Simon who is leaving the role of awesome-CAG Network-coordinator for new exciting horizons.
6. We’ve been nominated for OCVA Awards!
We’re proud to say that we’ve been nominated for the Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action for the “Most Innovative” category. The Ceremony takes place on the 9th of May at the Town Hall. Unfortunately only 2 tickets are available per group … but we will let you know if we’ve won!
7. Bring & Fix It collaboration
Did you know that we now supply a local, informal, regular fix-it-group of retired and non-retired group of people with broken items that can be repaired? Anything from electrical items, to small furniture items and toys can be taken to them. If you’re interested in donating repairable items, or helping out with collections – sorting – deliveries, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
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Image Source:  newspaper article.
8. Let’s get upcycling at Tandem Festival 
There have been several invitations to floating around the CAG news, calling people and groups to volunteer / host workshops at the famous Tandem Festival 16-18 June just outside Oxford. At our 25 April meeting, we can think of upcycling workshops, such as maybe… creating super-long bunting from cute textiles?! Join us at the 25 April meeting, sign up for being active at such a workshop in this spreadsheet, or get in touch.
9. Be a CirColl Social Hero!
Fancy getting to know the people of the group, or just having a bit of fun doing circular things? This section is meant to make our followers aware that ANYONE can create a call a social event on our facebook group. From pub quizzes to litterpicking to watching a ‘rubbish’ movie, you are more than welcome to invite us along.
10. Oxford Hub Ethical Network – Environment & Sustainability
As another piece of awareness – since January 2017, we’ve been part of the Oxford Hub Ethical network, active on the Environment and Sustainability side of things. This means Oxford Uni students have access to community volunteering, and our group has access to student audiences and volunteers, communication channels, and input into the activities of the Oxford hub. Find out more here. Thank you Oxford Hub for being great!
11. Volunteer with us
So if you’re liked a fair amount of stuff on here and would like to be involved to any degree – from a couple of hours a month to silly hours, check out this page!
Warm circular and resourceful wishes,
The Circular Collective Team

Swap Shop @ Turl St Kitchen

Come along to our Swap Shop!

  • Sunday 5th February, 2017
  • Turl Street Kitchen, OX1 3DH
  • 11am – 2pm (10:30am if you have items to swap)
  • Open to everyone, students and townfolk

Bring along any clothes, books, and other items you have at home that you no longer need, but might be useful to someone else. Swap them for something new, and go home happy! 🙂

If you don’t have anything to swap, you can always make a donation to the Circular Collective. Donate however much you feel the item you’re taking home is worth, or whatever you can afford. Your donations will help the Circular Collective create more events like this!

Get more details and sign up to the event using the link below…

https://www.facebook.com/events/261891057581223/

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Autum 2016: The Trailer Train, circular shed, the third trailer and etc.

We felt you would like to hear a bit more from us, so we put together an outline of our most recent updates, with further exciting details below!

  • The Trailer Train
  • The Circular shed
  • The Third Trailer
  • Micro-internships
  • Upcycling workshop
  • Student volunteer recruitment fair
  • Welcome to our new social secretary
  • PAT testing training
  • The Coffee Run
  • Get involved!
    • CAG Skillshare
    • Volunteer with us

The Circular Collection is gaining more and more traction. With a doubling of likes on facebook in the past six months, and by carrying around our leaflets for giving away when the group is mentioned in conversations, we are securing collections from beyond our groups of friendships ( friendship is a great way to start something). The JCR at Wadham College warmly donated us two loudspeakers and a mixing board, about 60cm x 50cm x 30cm each. Being short on collection volunteers, we had to be inventive – so we created the Trailer Train! Thank you Steph McGuire et al.

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The situation in terms of space is also improving. Over the summer, our chairperson Alexandra Mates and Alistair Phillips of the Oxford Wood Recycling Centre have been building a shed made of reclaimed wood found around the skips of Oxfordshire. The shed was placed at our current base (Alex’s house), and finalised with a little patching-up in October. We couldn’t have made it without the magical skills of Alistair, and the help of various friends and enthusiasts – Gabriella W., Tulum C., Maria F., Paul R., Zoe P., Elena J. and Robbie R., Andri, Kevin W. – huge thanks guys! We also thank all those who have supported us in spirit. We still have to build the shelves, so do get in touch by email or facebook if you’d like to be involved.

Early in October, with the help of Craig Simmons and Sam Hollick of the Green Party and their Ward Members Budget fund, we purchased our third, reused, trailer from ebay. We brought it home from Milton Keynes, named it Leaf, and it is now available for keen collection volunteers, solo or as part of the Trailer Train. Special regards to Craig and Sam, we couldn’t have done it without you!

 

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Also in October and November, we have successfully partnered with Oxford University Students of various backgrounds, as part of the university’s 5 days micro-internship programme. The three interns will look at the collective with us, and work together to explore ways in which our group could develop as a social enterprise, and how it can engage with more partners and stakeholders. We are looking forwards to collaborating with them in December!

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Ronja, the president of the Oxford Hub suggested to the Collective to participate and host an activity at their Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night at Hogacre Pavilion. We couldn’t say no, so we went! We hosted a most absorbing and enjoyable lamp and lantern upcycling workshop for the students and attendants, to keep the spirits bright and nights magical.

Also working with the Oxford Hub, we were one of the volunteering groups showcasing at the Student Volunteers Recruitment Fair. It was great spending time with our lovely committee and helpers, engaging with students, collecting emails in our emailing list, handing out leaflets, chatting to other groups such as OxGrow, Nightline and OUSU On Your Doorstep homeless action groups, but also to help the Broken Spoke Bike co-op by advertising their services and free-for-uni-people cycle safety training courses.

To save ourselves and you writing and reading time, here are some other news in brief. We welcome Lucinda Kenrick as our new *social secretary*!! She is also our lovely treasurer, and since our last meeting on the 23rd of October. We are also very looking forwards to our upcoming PAT testing training for those who have already expressed interest and signed up with Simon Kenton from the CAG Network. If you are also interested, please drop us an email and we can discuss! Last but not least of updates, we are very proud to announce that the Oxford Hub, Turl Street Kitchen and the Circular Collective are working in partnership to generate and support a student-led project, that will supply cultivation projects around Oxford such as Hogacre and Incredible Edible with freshly used coffee grounds. We called it The Coffee Run, and we are currently advertising to students this opportunity, again do get in touch.

On a future note, come with us to the CAG Skillshare on the 12th of November 10:00 – 16:00 at the Environmental Change Institute, Geography Department of Oxford University! Sign up is free for all, suggested donation of £5 on the door, but what a fantastic programme of workshop and talks they have. And as always, we are more than happy to welcome more members to the group – there is something for everyone, from running collections and deliveries, to organising events, to general help with anything. As a reminder, helpers have the right to claim two collected items a month if they see something they like from our collections.

 

Until next time, keep warm, bright, and resource efficient,

the CirColl crew

(links the various mentions to follow)

Awesome RWM NEC

The Resource and Waste Management exhibition happens every year in September at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre. For the Circular Collective, the Circular Economy Connect Theatre is such a brilliant opportunity to see for free! … and to hear the big players in the industry sharing their expertise and opinions.

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I had the chance of seeing charismatic Steve Lee, long-standing CEO of the Chartered Institute of Waste Management, chairing a panel discussion on the future of Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations (EPR) in the UK. These were adopted so that the ‘producers’ (manufacturers and sellers alike) of 1) packaging, 2) WEEE – waste electric and electronic equipment, 3) batteries, and 4) end-of-life vehicles pay for the environmental cost of these products at the end of their consumption. They can pay in two ways: 1) introduce their own take-back and treatment systems, or 2) must pay into a Producer Compliance Scheme – an agent that will take on that duty on their behalf. Fun fact: an Oxford based company named EcoVeritas provide companies and organisations with calculations and submission expertise for compliance with these regulations.

I was and still am a bit unclear when exactly these regulations were enforced in our country. They concept first legally emerged in the world in Sweden in 1990, introduced by Thomas Lindhqvist, and then the rest of the world picked up on the idea. From a brief research online, the first producer responsibility regulation dealt with packaging only, and came into force in 1997 in the UK. In 2014, then government published guidance on all four categories.

The panel consisted of key people in the sector, including Peter Jones – director of Ecolateral and former Director of Biffa, Jacob Hayler of Evironmental Services Association (ESA), Mark Dempsey of HP, Dr Kieren Mayers of Sony Computer Entertainment, Lee Marshall of the local-authority group LARAC, and Paul Vanston of Cambridge District and City Council. The main outcome of the discussion was whether the panel and the room considered that EPR was the one great step towards a circular economy (yes), whether action any of them can be improved (yes), whether any of the four categories should be put aside (no), and whether the categories should be expanded (yes – but let’s make sure we nail these four first).

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Another very interesting panel discussion – Dr Adam Read from Ricardo AEA chaired a conversation on the value and difficulties of waste data. The panel consisted of lead figures from Constructing Excellence in Wales, Environmental Services Association, SUEZ waste management company, BRE construction company. Some key ideas emerged, such as the greater need for data transparency (waste crime), accuracy, collection efficiency, collection towards a specific goal, standardisation, uniformity across the country, centralisation and managing data gaps are required. For my question on “what is your experience with waste, products and materials classifications”, the common theme was the difficulty that the various waste players encounter when placing a ‘waste’ batch in a certain category, but there was no mention of how the classification itself is built. Another interesting point was the need for developing a method for monitoring reuse and repair activities.

One difficulty I had with the discussions was that I had the impression that it was assumed that auditorium is well informed of the background and essentials of the topic. For instance, I was keen to hear what official lists, codes or classifications the industry uses, who builds the classifications, or whether classifications are constantly changing in order to meet the goals of circular economy activities. Therefore I asked the panel the following question “what is your experience with material and products classifications?”. I now realise I may have been slightly too vague, as most of the answers seemed to be in reference to bespoke projects that the speakers were on board, whereas I was hoping for a more nation-wide or Europe-wide answer. If you were curious about the same thing, I have done some post-exhibition research, and here is a good place to start – the European Waste Catalogue, transcribed in the UK as the List Of Waste. Nevertheless, my conclusion is that waste, products and material classifications may be very specific to individual projects.

Without going much into details for other aspects of the visit, here are some interesting keypoints, relevant for the Circular Collective and its followers:

  • I had a great chat to a person from the Furniture Reuse Network, who offer the same service as us (not only for furniture!), but at a national level and using motorised vehicles. We agreed that the best partnership we could have is refer to each other in case we cannot perform a collection due to the size of donation, and stay up to date with our developments.
  • I attended a very inspirational talk about recent commercial development for a more circular, socially and environmentally fairer world – check out on Jaguar’s REALCAR (recycled aluminium), VegWare compostable food packaging, and Interface’s Net-works carpet tiles made of ocean pollution fish-nets.
  • I had the pleasure of hearing from Joan Marc Simon from Zero Waste Europe on the EU’s stand on Brexit with respect to waste management – pretty much “sort yourselves out, you’ll fall behind on zero waste because Europe is more driven in terms of environmental legislation, but if you want to talk and join a specific deal (no economic arrangement / EFTA / EEA) we will talk”.

Thank you for reading so far! I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll leave you with some pictures and captions of what they mean for the rest of the post.

Have great days,

Alex

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The Theatre was in a cool indoors inflatable tent!

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The outline of what the European Circular Economy Strategy wants

It’s been a busy month… so stay tuned!

Done and dusted

We’ve been up to a lot of things since we last told you a story!

The end of February was really cool. We fixed Bubba! – our mascot lamp. It was given to us by Matt Molteno, the same friend who sparked the beginning of the Collective. The problem was that even with a new light bulb, it wouldn’t light up. We took it to Bicester Green’s #restartparty at East Oxford Farmer‘s market, alongside other donated broken electrical items. Restart Parties are one-off events where people bring their broken electrical goods and skilled people show them how to fix them. The solution was so simple! … and it just shows the absurd fate of many of the items we posses … there was only a bad fuse in the plug. In three minutes, Bubba was as new. And we decided to keep him for the collective.

Stuart, Peter and Emma from Bicester Green, 'hosting the party'

On the 28th of Feb, we pitched our group idea at Project Soup. Out of the four bidders, we didn’t win… but a group who’s name I can’t recall now won. They deserved it in any case  – they provide healthcare assistance to refugees and asylum seekers who managed to enter the UK. We were just happy to raise awareness about us, and to get to know the guys at Project Soup – organised the admirable Makena Lohr. We stood alongside:

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We didn't take pictures at the event, but here's Bubba reflecting back on it...

Mmmm, March was well nice. On the 9th of March, I (Alex Mates) represented the Circular Collective at the Resource Event and Exhibition at London ExCeL centre, publicised under the #thinkcircular tag. I must say, one of the highlights of the visit was to sit at the steering wheel of the first hydrogen-cell car prototype made by these guys in Powys, Wales! Aside from that, I attended four workshops, many companies and consortium groups were discovered, many interesting chats were held, including with:

  • the representative of Resource Futures from Bristol – about us and the Oxfordshire Community Action groups – and received good feedback on our idea!
  • the representative for the CLEVER arm of the CORE Project
  • the representative for the RECODE_Network, Cranfield University – about redistributed models of production and consumption
  • representatives for Zero Waste Scotland

 

The following week, the team got together to prepare “Easter Recraft”, our very first upcycling and junk-modelling workshop. The preparation was fun, but the event even more satisfying. We made egg holders out of egg cartons and toilet rolls ^^, egg cozies, a what looks like a chicken, daffodills using scrap papier-mache, egg baskets using plastic bottles and textile patches, floral robots using old carton boxes and plastic straws, etc. Lots of fun for both kids and adults 🙂

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Thanks Robbie for the poster and The Bear & The Bean Cafe for the space!

We’re very grateful to all those who made this possible: Robbie Redfearn for the poster and lots of other help; Elena Jung for awesome organisational skills, gathering materials and lots of other help; Tulum Cruz for posting up posters and publicity on Daily Info; Gabriella Wale for planning and attendance; Anya and Emily Gurm-Villet for preparing examples and tidy-boxes, and helping with the kids; Lucas for attendance; Jack and Lucie for preparing examples with us, playing music in the background, and putting up with the storage of stuff!; John Skeffington and Paul Riggs for materials donations; Zoe and little Theo Shardlow-Geall, David Thomas and the young ones for attendance and fun. Last but not least, to the generous guys at The Bear & The Bean Cafe for the free space and great collaboration and support!

Who we’re incredibly grateful to though are councillors David Thomas  and Sam Hollick (Hollywell ward) for their generous funding from their Ward Members Budget – now the Circular Collective can afford to acquire more reused trailers for any of you who would like to have a go at collections and deliveries.

To Come

Our next evolutionary plans are firstly to purchase more trailers grace to the funding from councillors David Thomas and Sam Hollick; but also we’re thinking of three important steps that would strengthen our presence in the community:

  • create and distribute posters to charity shops around Oxford, asking whether they would be happy to contract us as a collection service for their customers, and for maximising our audience
  • preparing neighbourhood leaflets to increase awareness of our presence and services, that include the logos of our sponsors
  • visit successful like-minded local commercial businesses asking whether they would want to sponsor us in exchange for publicity .
  • … and …
  • we’d love to run more collections for your local projects and for refugee camps volunteer groups such as Join the Dots Humanitarian Hub, Collect4Calais, Care4Calais, etc.

In terms of upcoming events, please visit our events page here.

… thanks for reading so far! We’d be more than happy to hear about what you think of any of the above, in the comments section below 🙂