The Cone Exchange is a unique scrap store in Harrogate, Yorkshire that aims to help the community and the environment through a number of initiatives. It sells waste materials to raise funds for local charities and social enterprises, provides work placements for people with additional learning needs and works to raise awareness of recycling in the local area.
The project is celebrating a successful 2017. Among other achievements, it provided 800 hours of placements for 27 adults with additional learning needs, as well as raising £15,000 for charities through its scrap store sales, which take place twice a week. Its 15 volunteers gave 3,000 hours of their time to help reach 4,500 people through community talks and educational workshops.
Alex is a student at Henshaws Specialist College and has been taking part in work experience with the Cone Exchange for three years. ‘It’s my favourite place,’ he says. Lee, work experience manager at Henshaws, adds that students ‘get so much’ from participating. ‘The Cone Exchange provides meaningful work experience but it’s also important for the students’ wellbeing,’ he says.
The project began in 2003 with the vision of ‘turning trash into treasure’. The founders were inspired by a young boy who visited their tea and coffee factory and asked to take a cardboard cone from the bin home to make into a decoration for his Christmas tree.
The organisers aim to make the Cone Exchange, part of the Bettys and Taylors Group, a role model for other community projects. ‘We believe in seeing and releasing potential – including the possibility in things that other people see as waste, and seeing the ability, not disability, in people.’