The project reinventing the way we use things

    04 May 2022

    n the Italian city of Vicenza a pioneering project is giving used items a second life.The Insieme Social Cooperative collects furniture and other unwanted goods that would otherwise end up being thrown out.

    Once salvaged, the objects are reconditioned and put on sale, in an attempt to give them a new beginning.

    ‘Smart Re-use Parks’

    The cooperative is one of several so-called ‘Smart Re-use parks’ belonging to a project called SURFACE.

    In addition to reducing waste the project also seeks to promote social reintegration by offering jobs to the most disadvantaged.

    Federica has been coming to the Insieme shop at least once a month for the last few years.

    “I like to come here to buy something second-hand as I like the idea of giving a new story to something that already has one. Today I’m looking for brooches. But if I find something else, I’ll buy it,” she said.

    SURFACE is made up of ten partners from nine European countries. The project has a total budget of €2.16 million, €1.78 million which comes from the European cohesion policy.

    With more than 250 separate initiatives to its credit, SURFACE is estimated to have prevented around 1600 tonnes of waste. It’s also created over 250 jobs.

    Why reuse matters
    What is reuse?
    • Reuse means using products or components over and over again in their current form rather than throwing them away prematurely.
    • It helps prevent waste, preserve resources embedded in objects and reduces new resource consumption.
    • It ranks 2nd in the ‘waste hierarchy’, which classifies waste management options according to what’s best for the environment.

    Supporting society’s least well-off

    In addition to reducing the amount of waste that gets thrown away, the project also seeks to promote social reintegration by offering jobs to society’s most disadvantaged.

    Sylvester has been working for the cooperative for the last two years. Originally from Nigeria, his job is to sift through what is worth keeping and what should be discarded.

    “Here, in Italy is my first job. Without work you can do nothing. Your are just like somebody in the street, just left alone. But thank God, I got this work. I love it and it’s great,” he said.

    More than 1,000 tonnes (1,050 tonnes) of unwanted goods arrive at the cooperative each year. Around 700 tonnes of that is reconditioned for sale. Bicycles, small electrical appliances and clothes are the most valuable.

    The project gets a huge amount of unwanted clothes of good quality. Katharine revamps them in her workshop. She says if they were thrown away it would take years for them to break down in the environment.

    “It takes 30 to 40 years for a jacket to disintegrate when its in the ground. I’ve tried to transform this jacket with a minimum amount of effort into a new garment.”


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