For Recycle Week 2023, Emmaus is highlighting some of the many recycling and sustainability initiatives taking place at Emmaus communities and groups across the country.

Recycle Week is an annual celebration of recycling, during which we are encouraged to urge others to recycle more things, more often. At Emmaus, recycling and sustainability are part of our core ethos.

As well as helping people move away from homelessness, Emmaus is committed to driving sustainability across the federation. Emmaus charity shops across the UK sell pre-loved furniture, clothes, books, and other items. Not only does this raise vital funds for the community, but it prevents items from going to waste. It also allows someone to enjoy something that’s new to them.

Communities also repair, repurpose, and upcycle a wide range of donated items, giving them a new lease of life. Companions receive training and qualifications so that they can repair and upcycle items, which are then sold to raise vital funds for the community.

Last year alone, Emmaus saved nearly 3,000 tonnes of used items from going to landfill.

Recycling helps people learn new skills and unleash their creativity

Repairing and upcycling helps companions – residents of Emmaus communities with experience of homelessness – and volunteers to learn a wide range of skills. So, as well as having a positive impact on the environment, it helps people build their knowledge and confidence. It offers the chance to be creative and produce something truly unique.

Earlier this year, Christine, a volunteer with Emmaus South Manchester, spent a week learning how to restore furniture with Piran, a furniture and wood restoration expert from Harte Conservation. Christine said: “I have had a lovely week with Piran  learning all about wood, stains and finishes. I have learned a lot which I can now put into practice in our Wythenshawe furniture workshop.”

Brett, who teaches woodwork at Emmaus North Staffs, said: “It’s a great way of learning woodwork: breaking down and rebuilding things that others have made. People also get a real sense of achievement knowing that something they’ve upcycled will raise more money for charity because of the skills they’ve learnt.”

As well as restoring and repairing furniture, some communities also offer upholstery services, scrap metal recycling and cardboard recycling. Emmaus Suffolk sells a range of eco cleaning products and toiletries, available as packaging free, refillable products. And many others sell recycled paint. Others use reclaimed wood to create beautiful new pieces of furniture, homewares, and items for the garden.

In October, Emmaus Gloucester launched a People’s Shed with a Frenchic upcycling workshop attended by six people supported by the community. During the four-hour session, companions breathed new life into donated items using Frenchic paint, known for its versatility in upcycling projects.

Danny from Emmaus Merseyside transformed unwanted pallets into a brand new shed for the community garden.

Some communities use fabrics that can’t be sold to make arts and crafts packs and sewing kits, or use the material to create bespoke bags and other items. And many others sell reusable paint through the Community RePaint scheme.

Get involved with recycling at Emmaus

You can support Emmaus in its aim to be more sustainable by donating your unwanted and pre-loved clothes, books, furniture, and household items.

However, there are a few things to ask yourself when offering a donation:

  • Is my donation clean and functional? Can it be sold on?
  • Would you buy the item in the condition that it is in?
  • If you are unsure whether a shop will take donation, call them beforehand and ask.

Each community has its own specialities and items they can and cannot accept. Find out more on your local community’s site.