Imagine for a moment that you can follow that tin-can you recycled last week all the way on its journey to being a new tin-can. Often recycling feels like something that happens ‘elsewhere’ because you don’t get to follow your used tin-can’s journey. It feels hidden, mysterious, but the consequences of not sending the tin-can on its journey are always at the back of your mind: climate change, the great garbage patch, CO2 emissions, etc.
With Youcan – a social enterprise based in Tayside – the journey of that tin-can becomes more visible, more local and community-driven. Thanks to Youcan, recycling is being reimagined as an inclusive employer with Youcan’s goal to provide paid employment opportunities to individuals with additional support needs. What we really love about Youcan is the way they’re combining a creative recycling initiative which is diverting loads of landfill waste to recycling centres with a touching social initiative to create an inclusive working environment.
Youcan’s story is one that is as personal as it is environmental. It started when Thomas Bayne was made redundant and began collecting tin-cans from his village pub for the scrap merchant. Thomas realised his brother Harry, who is autistic, had a really great ability for sorting the metals. Harry was precise, meticulous, and the repetitious labour of ‘sorting’ suited his skillset.
Initially Youcan began working with Perth and Kinross Council’s Employability Team to see if the work involved would be suitable for others with similar conditions. They had great success and the enterprise now collects tin-cans, plastics and cardboards free of charge for a growing network of businesses. Youcan have also recently expanded to include paper and glass on their list of collectable materials.
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits – recycling one tonne of aluminium saves nine tonnes of CO2 emissions – Youcan have created a huge reinvestment opportunity into their local economy and, most importantly, provide a really wonderful source of employment for part-time and additional needs workers who in turn gain a great degree of self-fulfilment, pride, and confidence.
From small beginnings – a village pub, two brothers collecting tin-cans, and a scrap merchant – Youcan has gone on to win the Scottish Institute for Enterprise’s Fresh Ideas Environment Award and is currently a finalist in the Current Converge Challenge and Santander Universities Challenge. To find out more be sure to follow their active Facebook page or visit their website.
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński