ONE year on from its establishment, a northside social enterprise project is proving to be a leading light in the mattress recycling sector. Boomerang Enterprises, a Cork Environmental Forum project, this week celebrated one year in operation. Since opening their doors, the project has diverted over 6,000 mattresses from landfill, with metal springs recycled, wood sold as kindling and textiles turned into energy. The initiative has also provided valuable upskilling opportunities for the long term unemployed — five of the eight Tús scheme workers who completed their placement with Boomerang are now in full time employment.
“I really can’t begin to tell you just how proud I am to manage a programme of this sort,” Project manager Paul Kelly said. “The effort that the staff here put in on a day to day basis is immeasurable.” Marking the anniversary, Mr Kelly called on legislators to introduce an outright ban on the dumping of mattresses. “Although we’re getting a good proportion of mattresses there is still a great quantity out there going to landfill,” he said. “Can we introduce a ban here in Ireland and have Europe follow?” Boomerang Enterprises is supported by the EPA, Cork City and County Councils, SMILE Resource Exchange, Cork City Partnership, the Health Action Zone and community members. Many representatives attended the celebrations with Lord Mayor Cllr Chris O’Leary stressing the project’s social benefits. “There are huge benefits to schemes like this.
The social benefits are not just about the environment or the community but also the individuals who participate and the opportunities to gain skills and develop the potential to move on. There is huge potential in terms of job creation.” Meanwhile County Mayor Cllr John Paul O’Shea stressed the environmental aspects. “I think something we are all concerned about is bulky waste being dumped on our roadsides and disposed of in improper ways. “I think this facility has showcased what really can be done out of a significant social enterprise and can prove for itself the success of recycling mattresses to such a capacity.” ■ See next Monday’s Evening Echo for more.
ONE year on from its establishment, a social enterprise initiative is leading the way in work activation and environmentalism. Boomerang Enterprises, a mattress recycling project based in Ballyvolane, welcomed visitors and other parties to an open day at its premises last week to mark one year serving the Cork community.
A project of the Cork Environmental Forum, with support from Health Action Zone, the Environmental Protection Agency, Smile Resource Exchange, Cork City Partnership and the City and County Councils, Boomerang has big aspirations to expand its range of services over the coming years. Currently employing nine people on Tús community work placements, the initiative has already proven to be a success in providing opportunities for the long-term unemployed.
To date, five of the eight Tús scheme workers to have completed their placement with Boomerang have found full-time employment. Speaking about the impact of long-term unemployment on people, Carmel Murray, TÚS co-ordinator, Cork City Partnership said that programmes like Boomerang are vital: “We are all aware of the effects that long-term unemployment has on people.
There is the very obvious one of financial pressure but the other ones are the pressure on families and family relationship, the decrease in a person’s morale and the lack of motivation. You lose the get up and go,” says Carmel. “There’s another one which is lesser known but studies have shown that employers are very suspicious of gaps in a person’s CV.
They much prefer to take people on when they have not been long-term unemployed. It’s a no-win situation there for longterm unemployed and that’s where Tús comes in. “It’s an effort to break the cycle of unemployment and prepare people to get back into the workplace,” she says. Cork City Partnership, which has been partnered with Boomerang since the outset, supports 190 Tús workers in the Cork city area offering manual handling courses, health and safety courses, preparation of CVs and interview techniques.
As a measure of its esteem of the Boomerang project, Cork City Partnership submitted it for inclusion as an example of best practice in a study by Pobal. Of over 80 submitted by groups around the country, Boomerang was one of only four chosen for publication in the final report. “Paul Kelly, project co-ordinator, and his team have made a huge impact on the city, community and the environment,” said Ms Murray.
“We are very pleased to have been involved as we have been from the very beginning and hope to continue into the future.” Mr Kelly agrees that employment training is a key priority. “I took the role of project manager in 2014 and I seem to be saying this all the time but I think it’s worth saying again; I really can’t begin to say how proud I am to manage a programme of this sort. “It’s community-based and the effort and hard work the staff put in on a day to day basis is immeasurable.
We all need to be given a chance from time to time and this is all about giving people the opportunity to get back to the workforce,” he said. It is clear to see that Boomerang has wide-ranging benefits for the community and environment. Development co-ordinator of Cork Environmental Forum Bernie Connolly, said the organisation is delighted with the progress. “We are delighted that instead of people having difficulty getting rid of mattresses we can collect from people who don’t have the transport. “We do personal collections and collect from retail stores who have a take-back policy.
We’re delighted that the customer base has grown, that the number of mattresses has grown and that we have almost outgrown the space in the unit,” she said. Having begun by taking mattresses from retail outlets such as furniture stores and then expanding with student accommodation providers using their service, Boomerang now also take mattresses from 11 civic amenity sites in Co Cork. Ms Connolly says the project is diverting valuable materials from landfill.
“We’re recovering materials such as the steel which goes on to metal recyclers to be smelted down and used again. Some 58 tonnes of metal has been recycled which is what we need to be doing with all materials so we really welcome that. “The bases have been used for kindling which is sold but more recently we have partnered with Ballyhoura Development, a lovely initiative in Limerick, for a pilot project. “Some of the wood from the bases is being used in local care and repair schemes and that has has other social benefits so it is really nice to link in with them,” she said.
The recycling of the fabric materials remains a problem at present, being disposed of via waste to energy, but Boomerang is engaged in trials to exploit the thermal and acoustic properties of the materials and ideally generate more positions for workers through a side enterprise.
Ms Connolly said that there are also plans to expand into the rest of the southern waste region. “We are currently taking mattresses from Tipperary County Council which has been a great initiative and there are other neighbouring counties that we would love to get involved with such as Kerry and Waterford.
We may even look at possible hubs in the rest of the Southern Waste Region which extends all the way up to Carlow.” Speaking at the open day, Keiron Phillips, manager of the EPA Green Enterprise programme congratulated Boomerang. Since 2001 the EPA has funded 121 projects to a value of about €8.4m through this fund and has grown to place an emphasis on social benefit in its decisionmaking. “Since I took over in 2012, I’ve take a slightly different view on the kinds of projects that we fund so projects with a social benefit like Boomerang have started to receive money.
We see the benefit of the social benefit of environmental work and projects like this one are so critical.” Mr Phillips said that there can be an issue measuring the value of work done by projects as it can be difficult to calculate the human benefit. “We know that when we give money to projects like Boomerang it gives tenfold the value of the money invested,” he said.
Stacks of success
LOOKING even deeper at the work that Boomerang does, the figures stack up to make an impressive picture. As of October 1, 6,237 mattresses, weighing over 135 tonnes, have been taken in by Boomerang and diverted from landfill. Some 2,500 of these have been collected from civic amenity sites, while others came from furniture stores, student accommodation and private customers. Stacked on top of each other, the mattresses would reach higher than Carrauntoohill. 73.2 tonnes of textile, over half of the material sourced, has gone to waste-to-energy. 58.28 tonnes of metal have been recycled by Cork Metals. 3.6 tonnes of timber from bed bases have been recycled in the form of kindling, and more recently in a pilot project with Ballyhoura Development Ltd.
On the human level, 17 Tús participants have worked on the project to date, of whom nine are still on placement. Of the eight people who have completed their 12-month contracts, five have found fulltime employment. “I think something we are all concerned about is bulky waste being dumped on our roadsides and disposed of in improper ways,” County Mayor John Paul O’Shea stated at their recent open day. “I think this facility has showcased what really can be done out of a significant social enterprise and can prove for itself the success of recycling mattresses to such a capacity.” The Evening Echo is proud to highlight the work of Boomerang Enterprises in this year’s Get Involved competition.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2015
A SUCCESSFUL CORK environmental group has condemned a decision by the Department of the Environment to refuse them funding which they use to pay for core operations.
The Cork Environmental Forum have received between €10,000 and €13,000 annually from the Environment Fund in recent years- money which is collected through the Landfill Levy and the Plastic Bag Levy.
However, due to the success of the levies in changing behaviour towards recycling, the fund now generates less revenue and this year CEF have been told that they will receive nothing.
Speaking following celebrations marking a year since their mattress recycling project Boomerang Enterprises commenced work in Ballyvolane, Development Coordinator of the CEF Bernie Connolly revealed the forum been hit with a 37% cut in their core funding.
Ms Connolly called their funding cut “ironic” given the CEF has to date diverted 6237 mattresses from landfill through their Boomerang recycling project started in Ballyvolane.
“Speaking to people in the business, they would say that represents a reduction of about €10,000 if you were paying for those mattresses to go to landfill so it’s just very ironic and rather galling that we are helping to implement a national policy to increase the amount of material being recovered, reused and recycled and our funding is cut.”
by Audrey Ellard Walsh
EACH year the Evening Echo pairs up with a sustainable community initiative to highlight their work as part of the Get Involved competition. Sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the competition sees members of two local newspaper associations, NNI Local and Local Ireland, profile a local group with a view to helping them succeed in their goals. The Evening Echo is delighted to partner with Boomerang Recycling for this year’s competition and over the coming months will be regularly updating readers on their work. Based in Ballyvolane Business Park, Boomerang Recycling is a social enterprise recycling project. Founded in 2014, it is an initiative of the Cork Environmental Forum working in collaboration with Health Action Zone, EPA initiative Be Green, Smile resource exchange, Cork City Partnership and Cork city and county councils. The project has two priorities; one being to provide employment and training to people in the community, the other to divert mattresses and bulky bed boards from landfills. Boomerang provides 10 Tús community work placement scheme positions for local adults, offering them the opportunity to upskill. This offers a valuable route out of long term unemployment, according to Project Manager Paul Kelly. “We strive to help the participants develop themselves and go further. “Since we started, six people have gone successfully through the project and four of those are now in full time employment.” There is no shortage of work to be done as Boomerang receive up to 200 mattresses a week from local authorities, furniture shops and the general public which are dismantled to their constituent parts, with each part recycled. Springs go to a metal recycler and are melted down while bed bases are chopped into kindling which is sold locally to the general public. Currently the textiles are used as a fuel source, though Boomerang are speaking to CIT and WIT about ways to develop new products from these. See boomerangrecycling.com for more.