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Welsh Government grant enables council to explore sustainable measures

MONMOUTHSHIRE County Council has secured a grant from the Welsh Government for a range of projects, which will contribute towards the delivery of its climate emergency action plan and help to reduce carbon emissions.  The grant, worth £626,000, lends support for the Welsh Government’s move to a circular economy in which waste is avoided and items remain viable for as long as possible.  As an important measure in the campaign to combat climate change, the Welsh Government hopes the funding will help develop many new job opportunities in the move towards a low carbon economy in Wales.

The grant will also provide timely support for the county’s town centres as the Welsh Government seeks support for initiatives promoting community cohesion through repair and re-use initiatives.  These provide opportunities for joined-up interventions such as community hubs offering repair cafes – in which volunteers repair household electrical and mechanical devices, computers, bicycles, clothing, and other items to reduce waste, maintain repair skills and strengthen social structures – or zero-waste shops, which avoid all unnecessary packaging.

The funding will secure the following projects in Monmouthshire:

The council will aim to develop a county-wide Library of Things network to establish premises where people can borrow items they need but don’t own, can donate items they own but don’t need, and a place where people meet to share knowledge and skills.  This will be set up in partnership with Benthyg Cymru, an organisation run by the founders of Wales’ first Library of Things, to support communities to set up their own borrowing facilities.  Benthyg Cymru will oversee the procurement of items and the maintenance of records.

The Caldicot repair and reuse hub will be located in the centre of the town hosting a range of activities such as a men’s shed, plastic recycling, a library of things and a repair and reuse café.

Monmouth’s Bridges Centre already hosts many community activities and its Community Fridge project will develop the premises further with an integrated building for a repair and reuse café and a library of things.

Abergavenny Community Centre will benefit from further food storage space for its commercial kitchen while the area used by its current repair café as well as a scheduled library of things will be refurbished.

Monmouthshire Upcycle in Chepstow will host a library of things, which will also include electric bikes that can be borrowed.

The reuse shops at the council’s Llanfoist and Five Lanes household waste and recycling centres (that sell safe and usable household items rescued from skips or donated) will feature additional storage areas and facilities.  These will be used to process wood, paint, waste electrical items, bicycle parts and other items for recycling in the county’s repair cafes and men’s sheds.  In addition, the grant funding will contribute towards extra staff to operate the shops, training and volunteering opportunities and the purchase of three vans to transport items.

As well as its partnership with Benthyg Cymru, the council will work closely with the Repair Café Wales community interest company to establish new repair cafés across the county, in addition to developing the existing ones in Abergavenny and Monmouth.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for recycling, Councillor Jane Pratt said:

“Our partnership with Benthyg Cymru and Repair Café Wales over the next twelve months promises to be an exciting initiative.  It will guide us in the county’s transition to a circular economy where we make the most of our resources and avoid waste to benefit our communities.”

Cerys Jones, co-founder of Repair Café Wales added:

“We first became aware of the repair café movement after reading about its inception in the Netherlands a decade ago and decided to set one up in Cardiff.  The events themselves are very simplistic yet the benefits to a local community are huge – waste reduction, upskilling, improved health and wellbeing, reduction in loneliness and isolation – the list goes on!  Since setting up our first repair café in 2017, we have now helped a further 39 communities do the same in their local area.  We’re so pleased that county-wide repair and reuse initiatives like this one in Monmouthshire are being supported to set up projects that strengthen communities across Wales.”

Phoebe Brown, Repair Café Wales Board Director said:

“We are really excited to be involved in this project to help build on the two brilliant repair cafés we already have in Monmouthshire. Our growth as an organisation and the increase in support for these projects reflects the increasing public concern over the climate emergency and positively indicates a motivation amongst our society to come together and take practical steps towards a solution.”

Becky Harford, co-founder of Benthyg Cymru said:

“The idea for the Library of Things first came about when I had just moved into a new house with a big garden but couldn’t afford to buy a lawnmower.  I didn’t know anyone locally to borrow one and didn’t drive to be able to borrow one from friends further away.  I came across the idea of tool libraries and when I realised there wasn’t one in Cardiff, decided to set one up myself.  The benefits of libraries of things are endless – providing opportunities to share precious resources and create connections with people in your community.”

Ella Smillie, co-founder of Benthyg Cymru added:

“This project will showcase Wales’ commitment to the circular economy, and we’re delighted to be working with Monmouthshire County Council to make borrowing better than buying for local residents.”

The council has provided residents with an opportunity to express their views on libraries of things and repair cafes with a short questionnaire and would welcome their opinions: https://bit.ly/3vhBDBY

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