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The Environment Centre Swansea: A Green Beacon For Change

18 September, 2021
By Philip McDonnell

For the past 25 years, the Old Telephone Exchange, a majestic Edwardian building in the historic Maritime Quarter of Swansea, has been home to a unique and increasingly important project. The Environment Centre, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1995 to mark the 25th anniversary of his investiture, would have been celebrating its own silver jubilee last year had it not been for Covid restrictions making event planning so difficult.

The Centre is a community hub with a focus on environmental information, education and activity. Over the years it has provided a base for dozens of organisations and projects and helped community groups, schools, businesses, public bodies and individuals to take positive action for a better world. As the world faces up to the climate and ecological crises the Centre’s work has never been more significant. 

A key priority at the Centre in recent years has been promoting a circular economy, which aims to eradicate waste by using resources efficiently and maximising reuse, repair and recycling. The Beyond Recycling Swansea project, based at the Centre, supports a wide range of schemes linked to this idea. For example, the Centre is a drop-off point for many waste items not currently collected by the local authority such as crisp and biscuit packets, toothpaste tubes, coffee machine pods and CDs which can all be returned to manufacturers for recycling. 

One particularly inspiring project supported by the Centre is cycleofgood which involves collecting used bike inner tubes that are sent to a community in Malawi where they are used to create beautiful bags, belts and wallets, which are available to buy in the Centre’s green shop. 

The Centre also organises workshops on cycle maintenance, tool sharpening and clothes repair, has installed cycle repair hubs across the city, and is host to a popular monthly Repair Café where locals can bring broken items to be repaired, free-of-charge, by an enthusiastic group of volunteers who use their skills to help cut down unnecessary waste. 

The Centre’s small but well-stocked green shop has an extensive refill station for cleaning and personal care products; plastic free goods and a range of organic, vegan and Fairtrade produce. There is also a small urban garden which features demonstration green walls and green roofs, and a greenhouse constructed from used police riot shields. 

As communities across the globe look for ways to address the climate challenges ahead and try to live more in harmony with nature, projects such as the Environment Centre have an increasingly crucial role to play in bringing people together to share ideas and work together for a future where the wellbeing of people and the planet is paramount.

 

Philip McDonnell, Environment Centre founder, former manager and current volunteer

 

​​Website: https://www.environmentcentre.org.uk/

Instagram @environmentcentreswansea

Twitter @EnvCentre

Facebook @environmentcentre

 

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