Call goes out for volunteers to help combat waste across West Sussex

A West Sussex County Council (WSCC) scheme is seeing volunteers support county residents on all aspects of waste minimisation, from sharing home composting tips to providing advice at public events on recycling and support on the many ways to reuse and upcycle materials.

WPA Scheme
WPA Scheme

Set up 12 years ago, the Waste Prevention Advisor (WPA) scheme is run by the WSCC’s waste management services and has already trained more than 150 passionate advocates.

WSCC household waste prevention officer Rachel Carruthers said the scheme trains and supports volunteers to promote waste prevention, reuse and recycling in West Sussex.

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It also helps residents understand key waste management messages and engage with the wider community throughout our county.

Rachel said: “In 2006, West Sussex contacted the University of Brighton to help shape the scheme and design a training programme, which looks at how waste is managed locally and nationally, waste prevention initiatives and backed up with site visits.

“The first training course was held in October 2006 and in total, 15 training courses - 13 of which were delivered face-to-face by Dr Ryan Woodard, University of Brighton - have been run, with the two latest being via online e-learning.”

Having been placed on hold and undergone a review in 2012, the WPA scheme was relaunched in 2014 with European Union (EU) funding to develop the online training.

Since then, a ‘whopping 3,620 hours’ have been spent volunteering.

Rachel said: “Approximately 70 per cent of the time [has been] spent working on council-organised events and initiatives and a healthy 30 per cent has been spent working on volunteer-led projects.”

Volunteers help deliver talks and presentations for community groups such as Rotary groups and Women’s Institutes; run information stands at major annual events, from fairs and craft markets to the West Dean Gardens Chilli Fiesta; speak at school assemblies, eco-events and housing fairs; deliver tours and run pop-up shops and surveys; and generate articles, photographs and blogs.

Rachel said: “If you would like to become a WPA volunteer, there is a link to the application form on the WSCC website or you can email [email protected]

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‘A chance to give back’

Walberton resident and retired teacher Chris Porter has been a Waste Prevention Advisor (WPA) advisor for over three years, with a focus on Chichester, Bognor Regis and Crawley.

Chris delivers waste education to primary schools across the county, running eco workshops, holding assemblies and helping them achieve Green Flag status with Eco Schools. She also designs and makes props for the West Sussex County Council (WSCC) waste team and helps at events.

She got involved because the scheme fitted with her professional experience and what she loved doing: “I really value the planet and I’m a crafter. I also miss the teaching, so love telling children how to waste less and reduce money for schools.”

Chris said it is important, once you retire, to find a niche: “It’s about giving to the community and trying to engage young people to see there are ways to be more thrifty and it doesn’t have to be a throw-away society.”

She said volunteering means you also gain so much: “I have so many friends who are WPAs; we go around, talk to people in our local community and can make a difference – I’m a beach champion at Climping - and it’s so important for the community to take pride in this.”

She most enjoys engaging with young people: “The workshops have been really successful and you see people get that light-bulb moment.”

One challenge is to engage people who are disillusioned and think ‘Why should I bother?’: “I give them information and let them go away and think about it.”

What would Chris say to people thinking of getting involved? “Please do! The free training from West Sussex and Brighton University was amazing - I cannot say enough how valuable it was. We have updates all the time, so we feel very much valued by West Sussex and really want to volunteer. Everyone’s found a little niche of things they like doing the most.

“If you’re feeling lonely, just pick up the phone and see what volunteering opportunities there are and the door will open.”

WSCC household waste prevention officer Rachel Carruthers said: “Chris’s support since joining the WPA scheme has been truly invaluable. She is an inspirational role model for many, giving her time and energy to help so many people in so many ways.”