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Social Enterprises and Sustainable Waste and Resource Management: Evaluating Impacts, Capacities and Opportunities - WR0502

Central to the issue of sustainable waste management in the UK, is the problem of approaching resource and waste management in a more integrated way by seeking to effectively include the social enterprise sector as part of the overall waste management infrastructure. This important and growing UK economic sector may have the potential to add a much more sustainable component to the management of wastes in the UK. However, the capacity available within the sector to deal with waste is largely unmapped and unknown, although much anecdotal speculation exists about the potential of the sector to provide alternative refurbishment and recycling routes for wastes, so a lack of sound data is a problem.

A further problem is the lack of research and knowledge transfer capacity within the social enterprise sector itself. While some key social enterprises are recognised as demonstrating best practice, they have limited capacity to disseminate this, and research carried out by the BRASS Centre has demonstrated that one of the main demands of the sector is the provision of more targeted support to ensure the long term sustainability of individual social enterprises. To ensure the most effective inclusion of the sector in the waste management infrastructure, this lack of capacity and the skills it requires need to be addressed, and linkages between existing research and knowledge based organisations strengthened to ensure the integrity and viability of the sector as a waste management infrastructure component.

A final but equally important problem that needs to be addressed is evaluating the overall sustainability impact of the waste related social enterprise sector, as the inclusion of the sector into the overall waste management infrastructure cannot solely be judged on its economic, or indeed, its environmental benefits, but must bring into any evaluation of costs and benefits, the positive social impacts achieved.

This project aims to provide policy makers with a clear understanding of the current role played by social enterprises and the social economy generally in the management of resources and waste, to evaluate the capacity of the sector to address new waste streams, and to deal with larger quantities of waste and to measure the economic, environmental and social impacts of these activities at the local, regional and national level.

The development of a research based network for social enterprises across the UK that aims to bring together researchers, social enterprises, local government, policy makers and others will provide a stimulus to progress in integrating more fully the social enterprise sector into the management of resources and waste in the UK.
The primary aim of this research is to evaluate the potential capacity of the SE sector to deal with wastes and resources, to assess the ways in which the SE sector can be more effectively included into an integrated and more sustainable waste infrastructure in the UK, and to develop the skills and knowledge capacity of the SE sector through a range of research and communication actions carried out both during the lifetime of the project and following its completion. The specific objectives required to achieve this are as follows:

• To conduct a literature review of academic work related to SEs and their relationships with the waste management sector.
• To identify and assess existing data sources and use these to map the current pattern of SEs involved in dealing with the management of resources and wastes in England and Wales.
• To consult with a range of expert stakeholders in the sector about current issues surrounding waste SEs.
• To conduct two detailed and four second tier case studies to measure and evaluate the impact of SE activities on economic, environmental and social sustainability on local, regional and ultimately UK-level communities.
• To conduct final analysis work and to synthesise the gathered data to provide a range of targeted recommendations to encourage, if appropriate, the more effective development and integration of SEs into the resource and waste management infrastructure in England and Wales.

Project Documents
• Final Report : WR0502 "Social Enterprises and Sustainable Waste and Resource Management: Evaluating Impacts, Capacities and Opportunities" - Final Research Report   (1204k)
• Final Report - Annex : WR0502 "Social Enterprises and Sustainable Waste and Resource Management: Evaluating Impacts, Capacities and Opportunities" - Annexes   (4207k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2007

Cost: £168,601
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Cardiff
Environmental Protection              
Policy Development              
Social Dimension              
Social Research              
Sustainable Resource Consumption and Management              
Understanding socio-economic benefits of recycling              
Waste Management              
Fields of Study
Waste Management