Warp It are pleased to welcome Andrew Mouat from Glasgow City Council to dive deeper into GAS, the Glasgow Asset Share Group. This is not our first article on this subject, in fact, you can see more material on this innovative enterprise here. In this article we see some new perspectives, in particular:
- How communication has been so vital to GAS
- The expansion of the project and its future aims
- How Glasgow City Council have taken the lead on city wide reuse
Savings made in 20 months since joining Warp It. For up to date Metrics please see here.
Hey Andrew, our first question is, what is GAS?
GAS is an acronym for the ‘Glasgow Asset Sharing Network’, which is essentially an informal partnership between the bulk of the public sector in Glasgow. The idea being that we all have resources and we all have procurement needs. It involves a significant amount of crossover, not just within our own organisations, but collectively with the public sector too. GAS is the attempt to try and better align some of our needs.
What are those needs? What are the problems you are trying to solve on a large scale?
Primarily the requirement to procure new things, and to be clear, we're mainly talking about furniture. We're not exclusively limiting ourselves to furniture, but with the various organisations and the size that they are, we're always procuring things, whilst colleagues are getting rid of things. GAS is an attempt to match that supply and demand. So, as well as that procurement need, we're also looking to reduce how much we're disposing of, and remove the routes we once utilised to dispose of unwanted assets.
For example, rather than hiring a skip or putting things next to the bin, we offer them to other organisations in GAS. Thereafter, if they remain unclaimed, we offer them to other sectors too.
This sounds like quite a large project, with a number of different public sector bodies collaborating with each other. What sort of challenges have you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?
I think the single biggest issue is that this project hasn't been the sole responsibility of any single individual. And indeed within each of the respected organisations it hasn't been a full time job of any particular individual either. So we've all been very much dealing with some aspirational perspective just trying to do the right thing, but almost in a kind of part-time role.
Difficulties involve getting people together at the same time, getting people to agree to things at the same time, getting people to agree to things within their organisation and having a firm approach to things.
Have you found a solution?
Enthusiasm and regular communication. It has helped that we, Glasgow City Council, decided to take the lead, and whilst we’re not perfect, we did end up with a point of contact; a single person as a driving force. We’ve taken a lot of risk here, both in terms of employing an individual and also taking out a lease on a premises for storage. You do need someone within the organisation to drive this kind of project.
At what point in your strategic planning did you decide to take the lead on this?
We felt it was a really good project, we have a responsibility as a local authority and the GAS Network believed we were the best positioned to carry this out. It also tied in really well with our own objectives for reducing the city’s waste. We’re also about to open a new waste management facility, so there are synergies with that project, which will have a significant impact on our recycling rates.
However, we were keen to make the point that prior to anything becoming recyclable, there was further opportunity to limit what becomes classified as waste. This project does this and offers a solution at the same time.
We know that Scotland is really advanced on the circular economy and Glasgow is a leading Smart city, so is there some crossover with those objectives too?
There are, strategically, however they’re yet to be integrated at this point. We see that as a second phase of the project, where we seek additional funding to manage the data and make this activity more accessible both in the public and third sector.
Glasgow’s been on Warp It for a couple of years now, and we remember being told that the merit was seen in the early days. What were the positive flags you saw at the start that made you think ‘this could work on a whole city level’?
I think the benefits kind of speak for themselves, in that you reduce waste, and you give opportunities to others to benefit from mobile assets that you no longer require. So, you make savings on two fronts; avoided waste disposal and avoided procurement. Therefore, the bulk of our activity to date has been during office clearances, where items would either be disposed of or placed into long term storage.
We've now opened those opportunities up to other services within the council. And thereafter, some external organisations, which is in itself a huge benefit. So you've got that kind of physical transfer of assets and the avoidance of landfill, but equally it's opened up a number of networks, in terms of speaking to people, like site managers, that we wouldn't otherwise be engaging with.
Add to that the fact that the Public Sector is often viewed as being wasteful and inefficient, therefore projects like this demonstrate that isn’t the case and often enthuse people. So the reputational benefits shouldn’t be overlooked.
Similarly, we've been able to further our low carbon agenda through these newly established networks as well. I think these people have the potential to trust what we do, because they understand our ambition and there's no real agenda behind it. So we start on the front foot when we approach them during the course of other projects.
Can you shine a light on any future plans?
Sure, our future plans are looking really positive and we are working quite closely with Zero Waste Scotland, trying to deliver these. Particularly in relation to making the scheme financially self-sustaining. Very simply, we’re also looking to scale up what we do in terms of the transfer of assets, but would like to add value to the process through the offer of the remanufacture and general maintenance of some of those assets. Included within that will be things like upgrading software to facilitate unique transaction types that might be needed by GAS.
We’re going to focus more on our marketing, because we’re not doing much externally. There’s a lot we can do with that, like helping bring in new members and getting them started up. That’s a question of funding, so these goals are dependant on how much of a budget we receive.
We have also been discussing formalising the GAS Network in an effort to standardise approaches and policies.
Any advice for others who’d like to go down the same, or a similar path?
I think you have to speak to both your procurement and legal teams very, very early on. Make sure that they understand the nature, purpose and scope of any proposed scheme. One of the biggest hurdles we had, in particular, was getting legal services to understand the process and drivers behind a scheme like this. In the public sector, something like GAS is unheard of and mostly because of the perceived liabilities of trading assets.
The entire process took far longer than anticipated, because we’ve been dealing with lawyers and others to get approval and fully establish the GAS network. I would urge others to learn from that experience.
One solution was when you (Daniel O’Connor) came to Glasgow and organised a forum so that people could talk and ask questions. It was really helpful having people from different members of GAS get together, it really got everything moving.
I’m happy to discuss our successes and failings with anyone looking to set up similar schemes.
That’s great! Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful insights to GAS.
- Improve communications with partners
- Dedicate somebody to reuse and reuse systems
- Talk to legal teams before starting a project