A new quality standard for second-hand goods

11th February, 2013 by tess riley

Zero Waste Scotland is pioneering a new accreditation scheme to increase consumer condifence in the country's re-use sector.

A new quality standard to mainstream second-hand shopping has just launched in Scotland. Zero Waste Scotland [ZWS] is pioneering the Revolve accreditation to increase consumer confidence in the country’s re-use sector, and raise awareness of it. At present, it is the only initiative of its kind in the UK, and most closely resembles Belgium’s 100-plus network of government-backed second-hand goods shops, Kringwinkels, which likewise seeks to improve the image, understanding and functionality of the re-use sector.

“There are very few existing re-use standards in operation today”, says Tim Burns, Head of Waste Watch. “Standards, such as the Fairtrade mark, have been proven to help consumers do the right thing by building trust in the products and services they accredit. This is important especially in sectors like re-use, where there are many local enterprises, rather than larger trusted brands.”

Alongside the launch of Revolve, ZWS published a report which found that, while 46% of Scottish consumers would hesitate to buy re-used goods due to concerns over quality and reliability, 70% believe they offer good value for money. Revolve aims to overcome concerns by offering re-use organisations training and support to develop a business model that will give customers a shopping experience comparable to the high street.

So far, two retailers have achieved accreditation, including the charity shop Blythswood Care and Furniture Plus in Fife. Both testify to a boost in customers’ and local interest as a result. A further 20 organisations are expected to achieve the first stage of accreditation in 2013.

Revolve is backed by a £650,000 investment from the Scottish Parliament, which has set a target of a maximum 5% waste to landfill by 2025. In the year 2011–12, Scottish councils paid £92 million in landfill tax bills, or £50 per tax payer – up from £54.5 million in 2007–8. Conversely, it is estimated that Scotland’s re-use sector diverts around 45,000 tonnes of unwanted materials from landfill and generates in excess of £20 million per year.

Almost one in two Scottish people bought from a charity shop in the last year, according to Cristina Osoro Cangas, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Charity Retail Association. She adds that charity shops in Scotland generate nearly 1,700 paid jobs and provide over 17,700 volunteering and training opportunities. “The Charity Retail Association supports any initiative that raises awareness of Scotland’s reuse sector”, she says. – Tess Riley

Photos: iStockphoto/thinkstock

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