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Essex calling: our pilot with London outer borough Havering

What do you think of when you think of the suburbs?

If you don’t think of reversing our dead-end consumer culture, then think again!

When we go to the suburbs, in the UK, US, or Italy, our minds run wild. What will the shopping centre of the future look like? How will space be reconfigured? If we are truly going to turn things around, the suburbs are a huge part of a liveable future – not an after-thought.

We started as an urban project. We didn’t exactly get started in (super rich) inner London, but our activity started in residential neighbourhoods in “Zone 2” – still rather densely populated areas of north and south London.

We’ve noticed over the years that “innovative” urban projects tend to reach the same kind of people, and we’ve prided ourselves in prioritising radical inclusion. Our events reflect that – drawing people of all ages, backgrounds and socioeconomic groups. But we did only enjoy a certain geographical reach at the start.

Over the past year, groups in Hackney, Harrow and Kilburn all helped our Restart Parties ripple out past Zone 2 London and well into its suburbs. (Special mention of Sarah and her friends with the Rubbish Diet who have started Restart Parties in Harrow.)

So we were very open minded – and excited! – when Havering Council approached us about a campaign to get people rethinking electronic waste in their borough. Havering is an outer borough of London, formerly part of and located adjacent to Essex. (For an international audience, Essex would be like New Jersey but let’s just say New Jersey is like Essex.)

Havering would like to seed community-driven Restart Parties across the borough, reducing waste and also educating people about the need to recycle electronics when they reach the end of life. The Innovation in Waste Prevention Fund (run by WRAP) is partially funding our work together, which will include a number of events (starting in April), a training and mentoring of local Restarters. (For more details, please visit the Havering Council page.)

It is particularly important to us to be working in such close collaboration with those at the coalface of waste prevention in a local authority. We started as a grassroots project directly answering a need in our communities. Our first contacts with our own local authorities were disappointing.

With this new project, we are learning to see things through the lens of a local authority, understanding the pressures on them, what motivates them, the potential of their reach in terms of communications and policy. And we can see Havering learning how to create space and foster community-based innovation.

Since we started working with Havering, we have been contacted by local authorities across the UK, and we are keen to work with more, but in a way that is sustainable, and well, sensible. We’re working on a package of support designed for local authorities – get in touch if you would like to hear more.

2 responses

  1. Geography Police

    As a London Borough, Havering cannot possibly be in Essex.

  2. janetgunter

    Thank you Geography Police, indeed Havering was “transferred” in 1963 from Essex. Here is an interesting piece suggesting (as we have experienced) that people “still think of themselves as from Essex” all of these years later.

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