St Helens students take LEAP of faith into reuse and recycling

Students from a specialist learning college in St Helens have opened their own café and reuse shop to help the local community reduce, reuse and recycle more.

The Not Too Shabby project is the vision of LEAP Specialist College in Newton-le-Willows, which has received £8000 from the Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority and Veolia Community Fund 2022/23 to reduce household waste, increase recycling and encourage resource reuse.

LEAP (Lakeside Early Adulthood Provision) specialises in providing an autism learning environment for 19-to-25-year-olds. The environmental project has seen the students set up the café and shop at the Lyme and Wood Learning Hub on Vista Road in Newton-le-Willows which, as well as being a place for local people to enjoy, is a space for students to learn and develop news skills.

The café serves hot and cold drinks and snacks, all of which are catered by the LEAP students. Amongst a host of things, the shop sells reused and repurposed clothes, books, paint, art and general bric-a-brac.

Teacher and project lead at LEAP Lauren Molyneux said: “The project is all about promoting more sustainable ways of living and for students to learn vocational skills in sectors like woodwork, horticulture, retail and hospitality.

“The shop sells pre-loved items such clothing, footwear and products handcrafted from materials, for example reclaimed timber and textiles. It is also an official stockist of ReColour paint – a chalk paint made from recycled emulsion. Our furniture rescue scheme allows customers to select a piece of furniture to be upcycled using any of the colours from the ReColour range, as well as any other tweaks they wish to be made.”

The project began in June and as well as giving LEAP students invaluable training and life skills, organisers are also hoping to prevent up to four tonnes of material from going to waste, including furniture, clothes, food and garden clippings.

Lauren Molyneux continued: “We are using the funding to deliver a series of tailored and practical face-to-face workshops and virtual tutorials. These will help establish industry specific skills that will support our young adults as they transition from further education to vocational pathways, apprenticeships, employment or higher education. We’re able to offer hands-on training in a variety of employment industries so that students within LEAP can support the project around their own interests and goals and gain valuable experience, thereby readying them for their next steps in life.”

Chairperson of Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority, Councillor Tony Concepcion, said: “This has been a great project as it has targeted a variety of materials which we know can be used again and not wasted. The Community Fund is great at reaching people we wouldn’t normally be able to, raising awareness of waste issues, giving these students the knowledge and skills to help use Earth’s resources sustainably.”

If you would like to contact the project: