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26 June, 2007

Don't cut the corner

If one has, say, a old sofa one wishes to dispose of, Lancaster City Council offers two alternatives*.

  • One can call 'Furniture Matters' direct and have it collected for renovation then reuse by local disadvantaged people.
    Unfortunately, one can't leave the sofa in the back yard for collection, one has to take time off work to be at home when the charity staff visit. Even then, if the sofa doesn't meet their minimum standard (a label proving it meets fire regulations, for example), they won't take it.
  • One can call 'Bulky Matters' and for a fee of £15 for up to three items, have it collected for disposal at the local tip.
    Having arranged collection, one can leave the sofa in one's back yard and go to work; one doesn't need to be present when the council staff visit.
    However, as the leaflet left by 'Bulky Matters' indicates, the sofa will be taken to 'Furniture Matters' first anyway, to see if they want it. Potential 'Furniture Matters' direct donors and 'Bulky Matters' clients are not told this in advance (though, to be fair, press releases on the Council's website do imply it).
My advice: just call 'Bulky Matters'. It's drastically more convenient and if the item is reusable, 'Furniture Matters' will get it anyway.

Thanks to A. for experiencing this so others don't have to.

*: Well, it could hardly offer three alternatives, could it?


Is this a new thing? When I needed to get rid of a bed and a washing machine last year, I just called the council, left it in the back yard, and they took them all away for free

Posted by Siobhan Curran at June 26, 2007 04:12 PM

Fairly new, yes. The £15 charge was introduced a few months ago.
In a way, I support it: 'polluter pays', and all that.

The not-so-great aspect is that one is charged to make a donation to charity. I'm sure it'd be possible for a large proportion of the fee to be refunded if items could avoid going into landfill.

Posted by NRT at June 26, 2007 07:11 PM

I was on the bus to the uni the other day and I saw the Bulky Matters van for the first time ever, before I found out what BM was. It looked really surreal and I was quite puzzled as to what was taking place inside :)

Posted by looby at June 26, 2007 08:31 PM

Ok not quite factually correct so far but Ill try and help....Bulky Matters is the new partnership between Lancaster City Council and Furniture Matters. Bulky Matters and FM both operate evenings and weekends so that people working can have an opportunity to keep the item, if reuseable, within their home. This is important as if the item is a soft furnishing that could be given back out to someone, then if it gets soaked it is of no use at all! The staff on Bulky Matters are employed by Furniture Matters and the aim is to save over 40% from landfill, more items means more unemployed people being trained within furniture matters and more finding employment and finally the items go back out to local people in need at low cost. The 15 does NOT go to Furniture Matters but reudces the cost of the service to every tax payer and as you say this means the "polluter pays" - have you experienced the costs of disposal of a fridge when buying new from Comet recently?
Trading Standards set strict guidelines on secondhand goods and these have to be adhered to by Furniture Matters as they actually get charged by the County Council to dispose of items at landfill......unlike Bulky Matters which is a disposal service, thats why FM have to be picky about what they collect.
Hope the above helps clears a few things up....interestingly Furniture Matters saved over 1600 tonnes from landfill in 2006 and gave the items back out to just over 7500 local families.

Posted by Stephen at July 1, 2007 03:14 PM

Bulky Matters and FM both operate evenings and weekends
This is not adequately publicised.

so that people working can have an opportunity to keep the item, if reuseable, within their home. This is important as if the item is a soft furnishing that could be given back out to someone, then if it gets soaked it is of no use at all!
I fully understand the logic, but it's for the charity to work around the donor's convenience, not the reverse. You've now revealed that they do: evening and weekend collections meet that need perfectly. Yet why isn't it clearly stated up front?

The 15 does NOT go to Furniture Matters.
I didn't say it did, but by paying the Council 15 to act as an intermediary, the effect is the same.
If an old sofa can't be reused, I'm happy to pay a 'landfill tax'. If FM can use it, FM is welcome to it – at FM's expense. At present there's no incentive to donate, apart from some notional warm fuzzy feeling of having 'done the right thing'.

I'd prefer to see:

  • The householder provides a credit card number when booking the collection.
  • Bulky Matters collects the item(s) and takes it/them to Furniture Matters.
  • If Furniture Matters can't use them, they're taken to landfill and the householder is charged £15.
  • If Furniture Matters can use them, the householder is charged a nominal £2-3 per item, solely for the collection service.
Whatever; the whole scheme could be drastically better publicised (how about a simple dedicated website, containing all the necessary information? Just stating a phone number via the Council website is inadequate), but basically it works, and I wish it well.

Posted by NRT at July 1, 2007 08:07 PM
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