Creative in association withGear Seven

Gumtree UK Send an Urgent Message to COP26 in the Shape of Second Hand Furniture

Marketing & PR
London, UK
Analysis of Freedom of Information data from requests sent to 333 English councils, compiled by online recommerce platform Gumtree, reveals the scale of the nation’s household waste problem

This week, climate changemakers from around the world will unite at COP26 in Glasgow, to accelerate action towards climate change goals. But with COP26 and the government’s latest landmark strategy leaving second-hand out the agenda, Gumtree UK has revealed data from its major Freedom of Information request* to urge the government to do more to promote reuse and second-hand goods in the UK.

Gumtree’s findings from 169 council respondents reveal that in the last two years**over three million items were collected by councils in England, with the majority of councils (86%) providing little to no record of what happens next; a lack of consistency and process that is no doubt contributing negatively to the welfare of our planet. With the average council charging residents £34.35 to pick up household items no longer needed, this equates to an estimate of £105m spent by English households on removing bulk waste items that could have easily been rehomed without cost. 

With the nation under mounting pressure to reduce consumption habits and its overreliance on landfill sites, the data highlights over 28,000 tonnes of items from household collections, the equivalent of seven double-decker busses per each council in England, were sent directly to landfill in the last two years that could have been passed on to a new home. 

The online re-commerce platform has also unveiled a huge gap in councils’ efforts to implement the ‘Waste Hierarchy’***, a process in place to prioritise waste management options according to what is best for the environment, with only a mere 14% saying they follow the suggested hierarchy of waste removal: Prevention, Reuse, Recycling, Recovery and Disposal. 

With 86% of English councils failing to comply with the guidelines set out by the Waste Hierarchy, almost a fifth (17%) appear to be failing to reuse or recycle items in any capacity. A further 12% admit to leaning on recycling as a first option, but do not promote the reuse of goods in any form. 

The East of England was overall the least eco-friendly region, having the highest proportion of councils (16%) that send 100% of waste collected directly to landfill. It is also reported as the second worst region at recycling items (behind the South East). The councils that were joint worst at promoting the reuse of items were the North East (42%) and the East Midlands (43%). On the contrary, London was the most eco-friendly region, with 79% of councils confirming they do not send any items to landfill at all and 82% promoting re-use practices as a first suggestion to constituents. 

Despite the government's pledge to reach net zero by 2050, as set out in the latest landmark strategy, the plan fails to outline details of an updated process for waste reuse, and the prevention of larger household waste from going to landfill. Instead, the strategy indicates a move towards consistent collections of household and business waste under the Environment Bill, requiring local authorities to separately collect materials for recycling, including paper and card, glass, metal, plastic, food waste and garden waste. 

Hannah Rouch, chief marketing officer, Gumtree UK commented: “COP26 is the world’s biggest climate conference and has been described as our last best chance of tackling the climate emergency. However, when we saw that new sustainable furniture had been commissioned for the conference we questioned, wouldn’t it have been better to just use what already exists? In fact, reuse and the circular economy haven’t made the programme for COP26 at all. 

“But is that any wonder when there seems to be a complete lack of understanding of the scale of our household waste problem in England, despite consumption issues having long been part of the government’s environmental agenda. It’s clear that there’s much more to be done to put ‘reuse’ higher on the agenda of councils, consumers and the government alike, and put an end to damaging consumption habits for good. ” 

“At Gumtree, we encourage buyers and sellers to rehome, repurpose and reimagine no longer needed goods, and with support from both councils and consumers, we’re confident that our reuse strategy will aid the UK in its pledge to reach Net Zero by 2050.” 

To combat the issue, Gumtree has unveiled an urgent campaign to highlight the benefits of second-hand in reducing consumption; a petition to ensure UK governments move faster on changing consumption habits. We’ll keep you updated on our petition progress shortly.