Social Agenda and Viable Business Model for Ucan Recycling : CASE STUDY: IT Reuse & Recycling Community Interest Firm Creates Jobs in Leeds

Ucan Recycling reuse ewaste weee leeds
© Ucan Recycling

The case of Ucan Recycling, a Community Interest Company (CIC) based in Leeds, UK demonstrates how the reuse and recycling of IT equipment can not only benefit the environment, but create jobs and promote skills through a social agenda…

Six years ago, Ucan Recycling was a one-man-band operating from a hot desk in Leeds. The company’s goal was to provide a free IT recycling service for businesses, schools, universities and local authorities throughout the region and beyond. But the success of the concept hasn’t just solved a growing environmental compliance issue, the company has also focused on creating jobs for the long-term unemployed.

Since 2010, the not-for-profit organisation has grown to a £1.2 million turnover with seven permanent members of staff – all of whom were previously out of work. The company said that during that time placements have also been offered to six apprentices and a total of 75 volunteers from the local community.

“We made a conscious decision to reach out to the unemployed and become a host for volunteers to gain work experience, learn new skills, develop their personal and professional confidence, and become more ‘job ready’,” explained Ucan director, Rob Seal. “Some volunteers reluctantly come to us to simply ‘tick a box’ so that they can keep their benefits, but we can – and do – change their attitude to the world of work.”

“Even if we can’t offer a permanent position at the end of the placement, we increase the chance of that individual going on to find paid employment,” he continued. “We even receive incoming enquiries from neighbouring businesses looking for help to fill their vacancies – we’ve almost become a free recruitment service.”

Into Work

One local man helped by Ucan’s scheme is an ex-offender who had been unemployed for 19 years. Having openly shared his bitterness towards the work placement, he admitted he felt at the ‘bottom of the scrap heap’ when joining the company. But the opportunity soon changed him and, four months into his placement, Ucan secured a permanent job for him at a local warehouse.

“We were obviously delighted with the outcome and, when he received his first pay packet, the employee said he felt like a lottery winner,” commented Seal. “It’s wonderful to have helped change his outlook and play a part in him turning his life around.”

Ucan has recently achieved award recognition for its community impact to date. The team scooped the Job Creator of the Year accolade and the ultimate Winner of Winners award at the recent Bradford Means Business event.

This award coincides with Ucan’s one year anniversary in its current ‘home’ - 12 months ago the business relocated from offices on the fringe of Leeds city centre, to one in the heart of the countryside in Wyke, Bradford.

“The more IT we can collect for reuse and recycling, the more we’re supporting the UK’s resource agenda, the more we can reduce a compliance burden for businesses, and the more jobs we can create,” said Seal.

“Ucan is proof that a defined social stance can reap multiple benefits for the organisation, the environment and the wider community. We’d love it if more people thought a little differently about the employment opportunities they offer,” he concluded.

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