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The Wheel's Impact - Our First Year

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Talented repairers, Bee Creative Arts, repairing a swivel chair at our Repair Cafe.

So what did the Wheel achieve in it’s first year? Why do we want to share this with you?

a. Because we believe in being transparent and b. Because numbers are important.

If you can measure it you can improve it! But we also learnt that it is very difficult to measure somethings and even harder to do so precisely. So first, we will list our achievements qualitatively and then share the estimated numbers.

We launched this digital signposting platform, kicked off and ran 3 (Wheel Merton) Repair Cafes and in the process found a (still growing) number of keen repairers amongst residents, decorated a local heritage building, Canons House with upcycled soft furnishings and shared those skills with many more in the community, ran 4 project preloved workshops (focused on reaching out to hardly reached groups, for all things textile sewing and mending related), ran a 3 day community clothes swap at Colliers Wood library, made and distributed over 80 draught excluders from fabric scraps to help residents lower their energy use, launched a trial of reusable bags made in the community from preloved fabric with SMEs on Morden high street and are working with the council and University College of London on a research project to help high streets waste less and become more resource efficient.

We helped the Baptist Church on Lower Morden Lane support a growing number of vulnerable elderly residents through their soup kitchen with surplus bread (that businesses may have thrown away) from Sustainable Merton’s community fridge!

We connected with ReLondon, the Restart project, the South London Partnership and many others working to build a circular economy and exchanged stories and ideas.

In doing the above, we avoided 705 kg of waste (from the reuse, repair and upcycling of textiles, furniture, other non-electrical items, tech and electrical items). We were able to do so due to the 662 volunteer hours contributed generously by residents. We also tried to estimate the emissions we avoided from the avoided waste and we think that amounts to around 1057 kg CO2 e but we will never know for sure what the ultimate fate of the reused, repaired and upcycled items are, so we did this based on stated assumptions and using the government’s department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) emissions factors. The full impact report will be available on the

website shortly.

We recognise that this is barely scratching the surface compared to the amount of stuff that ends up in landfill or being incinerated today but it is a great start and we are proud of it. Other benefits that emerged from the initiatives were improved mental health and well-being of participants, improved social cohesion, civic pride, skill share opportunities and being able to lean-on others in the community (there is a lot of talent and kindness amongst us- if only we care to look!)

We are grateful for the support of the council, who funded this project last year and have agreed to fund it again this year (hurrah!) and not only that, with their support, we will be launching a preloved studio, later this year, which will be Merton’s circular textiles community hub- very exciting! Watch this space. We communicated our learnings from this year, the most important of which was that circular economy needs more physical infrastructure like holding and maker spaces to become a reality and our local authority is taking steps to address this.

As the community activator of the project I am personally proud of the people in our community whose talent and dedication were activated to the next level- women, who we supported through the capacity building funding last year who are now setting up social enterprises for a circular economy!

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time”- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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