Irish social enterprises driving reuse and recycling

As part of an EU-wide pilot initiative to highlight the work of social enterprise, environmental and social organisations gathered in Dublin City Hall last night to showcase Irish leaders who are driving environmental sustainable business models through reuse and recycling.

The event, organised jointly by the Eastern-Midlands Waste Regional Office (EMWRO) and Community Reuse Network Ireland (CRNI), was addressed by Karel Vanderpoorten of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise, DG GROW.

Mr. Vanderpooten stated, “With the European Social Economy Regions pilot 2018, the European Commission wants to reach out to European regions and to show the variety of social economy and social entrepreneurship activities happening in EU regions. The pilot aims to raise awareness and contribute to building networks of regional and local social economy stakeholders.”

Social enterprises are businesses whose primary objectives are societal, environmental or community-based. They are key actors in the recycling, reuse and upcycling sector in Ireland and in the EU and as such, are expected to play a vital role in transitioning to a more circular economy, that is an economy that wastes less resources such as materials, energy and water.

Speaking on the night, Joanne Rourke of Eastern-Midlands Waste Regional Office, Dublin City Council, said “Transitioning to a circular economy is necessary if we are to curb climate change, reduce the amount of plastic making its way into our environment and reduce our vulnerability to scarcity of raw materials. While big businesses are just beginning to realise the importance of circular economy business models, reuse and recycling social enterprises have already been on that path for many years.”

Speaking at the event, Claire Downey, CRNI Executive, explained “In 2017 alone, CRNI social enterprises reused over 20,500 tonnes of goods and recycled about 60,000 tonnes. This sustained over 850 jobs, created 350 training opportunities and engaged over 7,650 volunteers. Tonight we are showcasing social enterprises as leaders and innovators in reuse and recycling, and thereby demonstrating the very important role they will play in driving the circular economy agenda.”

The event featured stories and conversations with three social enterprise leaders including Clodagh O’Reilly, of ReCreate Ireland (art supplies reuse); Una Lavelle, of Recycle IT (electrical and electronic equipment recycling) and Bernie Connolly, of Boomerang Enterprise (mattress recycling).

Discussions on the night highlighted the challenges and successes of the reuse and recycling social enterprises in Ireland.  CRNI members recommended that social enterprises should be recognised for their role as first movers in reuse and recycling, and are better supported through enterprise supports and funding for critical research and investment. The importance of social and environmental clauses in procurement was particularly emphasised in order to facilitate social entrepreneurs to fulfil their roles in driving the circular economy agenda.

The event took place the evening before the Community Reuse Network’s biennial conference on engaging consumers and businesses in reuse, at the Smock Alley Theatre (see It also comes at the start of National Reuse Month 2018, which focuses on how to Reuse Everyday, at Home, at Work and at Play throughout October (see for details).

Photos available on request by emailing