Thousands of old beer cans, car tyres, shipping containers, industrial pallets and straw bales are being used to build a new church and community centre in Glasgow, all with the help of local people.
The cans are being used to construct walls and furniture, the tyres to form foundations, the containers and pallets to create buildings and the straw bales to provide insulation. It’s one of the most ambitious recycling projects in the country.
With the backing of grants from the Scottish government, the lottery and Glasgow City Council, work is now starting on the first phase of the project - building an “energy hub” and community centre in Milton, a disadvantaged district in north Glasgow.
After that, the plan is to build a church, a café, a theatre, a gallery and offices, set within a landscaped public park. Further grants of £2.2 million are being applied for with the aim of having it all finished by April 2014.
"We are creating our building ourselves - one can, one tyre, one straw bale at a time,” said the Reverend Christopher Rowe, minister of Colston Milton Parish Church.
“The people of Milton will be building a building to meet their needs out of material commonly regarded as rubbish, things that people throw away but which in reality could be given another life in all sorts of ways.”
Recycling was going to create a “wonderful resource”, as well as cutting climate pollution from landfill dumps, Rowe argued. “Our aim has always been to create a building with as many recycled materials as possible to use less energy and create fewer emissions.”
The project also had an important social aim, he said. It would be built by “people who are often regarded as rubbish by society, one of the poorest communities in Western Europe, in a culture which is quite good not just at throwing away physical or energy resources but human ones as well.”
People love the idea that old beer cans can be used to make a church, Rowe maintained. “I think they found something ironic and rather amusing about it.”
Hundreds of local people have so far collected over two tonnes of used aluminium cans, and aim to gather a further two tonnes. Some will be used to construct walls and furniture, and some sold to raise money for the project.
The new community building will also make use of over 500 worn car tyres, 300 timber pallets from local industrial estates, 12 shipping containers, old roofing tiles and disused scaffolding planks.
We plan to transform old car tyres into foundations, old cans into walls and old shipping containers into a sustainable community space for meetings, workshops and exhibitions,” said Lee Ivett, the Milton project’s co-ordinator and architect. “In turn we are saving raw materials and money.”
The local campaign, Love Milton, recently won planning permission for the new community building. “It will demonstrate the value of recycling within the context of a live building project that will ultimately be a much needed resource and amenity space for the people of Milton,” Ivett argued.
“We feel that a hands on approach is the most appropriate way of demonstrating the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle that has recycling and re-use as a key component. Our projects provide a means of empowering the individual and therefore the community in a manner that is economic, resourceful, sustainable and enriching.”
The environment minister, Richard Lochhead, pointed out that it was easy and important to recycle as much as possible. That’s why the government has set up a website, www.greenerscotland.org, to help people find out what they can recycle, and how.
“This project shows just what can be achieved,” he said. “Latest figures show Scotland's households already recycle nearly 44 per cent of waste, but there's still a lot more we could all be doing and I encourage everyone to go that bit further and recycle more recyclable items, more often, to make Scotland a true zero waste society.”