The Unipart Outstanding Employment Award: Small Business: Recycling Lives

Award Type: 

  • 304 people helped to prepare for world of work
  • 147 jobs found

Creating employment opportunities former prisoners, people still in prison and the homeless.

Meet Recycling Lives, the waste firm taking people out of homelessness by offering them a job

Almost half of all crime is committed by people who have already been through the criminal justice system. The cost to the taxpayer of reoffending is estimated to be between £9.5 and £13 billion per year.

Recycling Lives is a waste management and scrap metal recycling company, and have taken an original approach to tackling this.  They are the winner of the Unipart Outstanding Employment (Small) category at the Responsible Business Awards.  Recycling Lives directly supports a number of charity programmes to create employment opportunities for those furthest from the job market.

Specifically, it helps individuals with a history of offending, addiction and homelessness by offering them holistic support, training and work placements – all with a view to securing them a job.

It offers a number of programmes within prisons working alongside HM Prisons (HMP) to run recycling workshops as well as employment opportunities pre-release, accredited training and skills development.  They aim to secure work placements for offenders approved for release on temporary license to undertake voluntary or paid work. The business can also provide accommodation – a base from which individuals can take part in the programme and get the support them need.

It also works with charities such as the Prince’s Trust, National Citizenship Service and Job Centre Plus – to find work placements to those with limited skills or experience, long-term unemployment or mental illness.

So far, the company has helped 304 people prepare for the world of work, as well as 147 jobs and work placements for those that need it the most. Most programme graduates go into the Recycling Lives business, but it also has teams working with other businesses and organisations to employ graduates. These include: the recycling business EMR, United Utilities, the hospitality group Cheshire Pub Company, and the highways division of Kier Group.

It is a unique approach built on an aspiration to change the way business is done in the UK, says group managing director, William Fletcher. “We’re creating significant social impact and enormous value by using employment as the catalyst for improved lifestyles and life chances for marginalised individuals,” he says.

“An organisation doesn't need to choose between enjoying commercial success or creating social impact.”

To truly understand the approach, Recycling Lives points to case studies of graduates that have benefited from its intervention – people like Dean. Dean didn't know how to get his life back on track when he was jailed in 2016. He not only had worries about his lifestyle and job prospects, but also about being able to see his children, who had been taken into care. The father-of-three worked in Recycling Lives’ HMP Academy in Lancaster Farms for six months and saved enough money to secure a tenancy upon release. He had both the aptitude and attitude to be offered a full-time role, and with this stability, was ready to try to see his children, with support from social services. “Recycling Lives has helped me in every way – with a job, a home and my children. It means everything to me,” he says.

For the business, its focus on creating social impact enables it to develop strong partnerships with customers who often cite its programmes to help ex-offenders as a key factor in awarding contracts, knowing their waste stream will create meaningful jobs for marginalised groups.

“Our social value offer allows clients to achieve social value relative to their contract and meet their own CSR agenda,” says the company, which also benefits from bringing in skilled workers.

“I’m proud to lead an organisation that has enabled hundreds of people to completely change their lives for the better through employment,” adds Fletcher. “Each has a different story to tell and it is great to see them around the business, with renewed vigour for life and a sense of worth both in and out of work.”