Big Womblers aim to help people and planet through household salvage

By staff writers
February 18, 2009

Every year furniture and household items in their millions are thrown away. Yet many of these can be reused to support people in need says a campaign which is involving community groups to recycle for change.

The Big Womble, organised by the Furniture Reuse Network (FRN), promotes the work of 400 charities around the UK that help people on low incomes with second hand low cost furniture, electrical appliances and household items, all diverted from landfill.

Every tonne of furniture rescued from landfill saves nearly 3 tonnes of carbon, they point out.

Organisations across the country will be running local events to highlight the value of donating furniture and other household items as a way of alleviating material poverty.

Celebrities including Debbie Harry, Alastair McGowan and Joanna Lumley have donated furniture and other household items to the Big Womble for a raffle to promote reuse.

An armchair from Joanna Lumley, a pedal bin from Alastair McGowan and a t-shirt worn for an AIDS benefit gig from Debbie Harry are among the lots that have been donated to the cause.

The Wombles was a famous TV children's series from a number of years ago, featuring characters who lived on Wimbledon Common and who were famous for making use of things others threw away.

Paul Smith, Chief Executive of the FRN said: “We are excited that celebrities have seen the value of what we do and are supporting the re-use sector with donations of prizes. Money raised will go to supporting the work the FRN and its members do to reduce poverty in Britain”.

The raffle will be drawn at a landmark event in Wimbledon on Friday 20 February 2009. The Big Womble: London is a unique event that invites Londoners to become Wombles for the day.

The London Community Recycling Network (LCRN), who are co-ordinating the event, is encouraging people to find broken, tired and discarded furniture and household items and bring them to Wimbledon College to be refurbished and reused. At the end of the day these items will be donated to furniture reuse charities in the city.

Underground or overground, Londoners will be making reuse of the things that they find. With the help of leading designer Ryan Frank, participants will fill the stage with these wombled donations, creating a living representation of what twenty-first century Wombles can achieve.

There will also be a workshop to make tidy bags out of t-shirts, womble videos to watch and masterclasses throughout the day on useful tips for effective reuse.

Hannah Kowszun, who is involved in promoting the wombling initiative, and who also writes for Christian social comment magazine Third Way, says that the initiative deserves backing from church people alongside other civic groups, and that it raises important questions about the use of resources, practically and theologically.

She told Ekklesia: "In first century Palestine all goods, material and immaterial, were thought to exist in finite quantities, and those who increased their store did so at the expense of everyone else. In all of his parables that concern money or resources, Jesus motivates people to engage in or to give back to the economy: the parable of the rich young man, the parable of the talents. So Reuse, recycling and indeed reduction of profligate use of resources, is not just a modern response to a contemporary issue. It has deep roots."

There is an extensive online presence for the initiative, which is being coordinated by moblog creator Alfie Dennan. See:

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