Cumbria County Council & Freegle
Making reuse count

A successful partnership between re-use charity Freegle and Cumbria County Council has led to a new way of thinking about reuse in the community.

Key Outcomes

Since 2014, the Waste Prevention Team at Cumbria CC together with seven local Freegle groups and other partners have jointly facilitated the creation of a community of more than 20,000 Cumbrian Freegle users. In 2020, an estimated 135 tonnes of ‘stuff’ got diverted away from the waste stream and put back into good use, representing a CO2 saving of 68 tonnes for the county. The partnership was also shortlisted for the 2015 Partnership Award at LARAC.

Big Lottery Project kick start

When Freegle was launched in 2009, two local Cumbrian groups (Kendal & Penrith and Eden) immediately jumped on board. Resident Chris Cant, who also acts as Community Representative on Cumbria’s Waste Carbon Reduction Group , volunteered to run the Penrith and Eden District Freegle group. Chris felt that working together with the local authority was crucial:

The sustained nature of support from Cumbria CC has helped Freegle to be an amazing catalyst for reuse in our community said Chris.

In 2014 relationships began to flourish during Freegle’s Big Lottery Project. With support from Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS), Penrith Action for Community Transition (PACT) and the Sustain Eden Project, the initiative’s aim was to encourage residents to ‘Grow Your Own’. Freegle got involved by providing an easy-to-use platform where people could find and share resources such as seeds, plants, tools and equipment. A series of events and community projects were developed, with the help of other partners and funders, in response to this idea.

An old bath finds a new home at a Give & Take Event in Penrith.

Community Give and Take Events

Helped by funding from the Cumbria Waste Prevention Fund, approximately twenty ‘Give and Take’ events have been held across the county in venues such as village halls, to give residents an opportunity to give away their unwanted possessions and pick up some new treasures.

Give and Take events have not only been a fantastic mechanism for reuse but also a great place for positive community engagement and information exchange. commented Waste Reduction Officer Judith Bradshaw.

The Penrith & Eden District Freegle Blog & website , managed by volunteer Chris Cant has also provided a regular blog, with lots of great ideas for reuse and information about forthcoming events.

Freegle App Launch in 2015

A new Freegle app, which makes using Freegle even easier, was launched in 2015 with funding from Cumbria CC.

On Android, the Freegle app is currently installed and active on 24,409 devices and in 2020 alone, the iOS version was installed 9,420 times. The apps are rated highly by users and generate about 20% of Freegle’s traffic.

A big advantage with the app are the notifications, which cut the fuss of using email. said Chris Cant.

Launch of the Freegle mobile app in 2015 (Chris Cant, Freegle and Judith Bradshaw, CCC)

Benefits & Success

The partnership has been fruitful in many ways not least by supporting the community during the Covid pandemic.

Freegle is terrific for re-use and for the environment but can really help people too. The Covid crisis has hit households in Cumbria hard, resulting in severe financial pressures. When restrictions have allowed, Freegle has enabled residents to safely access much needed household items completely free of charge. said Judith Bradshaw.

By adopting and integrating Freegle into Cumbria CC’s message, residents are enabled to make responsible choices when deciding what to do with their unwanted items. Judith explained:

Together we have made Freegle an important part of Cumbria’s waste minimisation programme. By promoting Freegle across all of our services we can encourage as many residents as possible to sign up and take part.

Reuse Data

Freegle provides local authorities with area specific, ready-to-use data on the estimated reuse tonnage and associated CO2 emissions savings from materials that are diverted away from the waste stream via the platform.

The data provided to us by Freegle gives us reliable, relevant and useable information about the fantastic level of reuse that is already happening across the county said Judith.

Over the last 12 months, 3.2 million Freegle users across the UK diverted at least 6,000 tonnes away from landfill and waste treatment plants. These figures are likely to be a significant underestimate.

Your residents are probably already using Freegle. For the statistics in your area, see Freegle’s searchable tool

Get involved

Join the growing list of councils such as Essex, Lancashire and Hertfordshire County Councils who are already working with Freegle.

Today – Register on or download the app. Have a look round and find something to Freegle.

This week – Email and let us help you to organise some links to Freegle on your website and social media. Browse our excellent Communcations Toolkit for councils

This month – Mention Freegle as an option when you talk to residents about their bulky waste – we have information you can add to your website.

Referencing Freegle could be useful in other departments too – for example:

  • Housing – reuse of furniture for those in need
  • Estates – save money and waste when disposing or acquiring properties
  • Schools – a way to reuse furniture, uniform, or equipment.
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