Acorn’s New Drive-Through ~ A Product of the Pandemic!

Acorn’s new drive-through donations centre is a product of the pandemic. It probably wouldn’t have happened but for the new way of working that Covid restrictions brought about…

By Caroline Spencer

A new purpose-built drive-through donations centre at Acorn Reuse will create a minimum of 10 paid jobs and 60 training opportunities for people with a disability or long-term health condition.

The social enterprise secured Fiscal Stimulus funding from the Government of Jersey in 2021. Ministers came up with the funding as a way of helping the economy recover from the Covid pandemic. 

Many organisations had to develop new and innovative ways of working during the pandemic and Acorn was no different and they found that some of the new methods of working streamlined their processing and productivity. The fact that they had to store donated goods for 72 hours meant that they created a separate temporary donations and collections area away from the main shop. This proved to be better for staff and customers alike. 

The new shed is being built on the overflow parking area to the rear of Acorn Reuse. Acorn general manager Steve Pearce said: ‘The new collection, delivery and goods processing depot will provide a streamlined service for customers and improve working conditions for staff. The new building will increase our capacity to receive and process goods by over 30% and it will release 25% more sales floor space within the main reuse shop. 

‘In turn, this will increase revenue through sales, enabling Acorn to employ more people with a disability or long-term health condition – at a time when there is more demand for our services than ever. It’s an exciting time for Acorn. This is going to be a huge boost after such a challenging time.’ 

Steve added: ‘The implementation of this project also supports the issue of waste and reducing the Island’s carbon footprint. Reuse is fundamental to the Island’s waste management strategy and environmental good. This extra facility enables us to increase our ability to divert waste by 30%. We expect to be able to remove an additional 730 tonnes from the waste stream and we anticipate a 3.5% improvement on this amount each month.’  

Some years ago, Acorn decided that any business opportunity they developed should both help the local community and have environmental benefits. Acorn Reuse takes reusable items out of the waste stream and directly resells or repurposes them to sell through their store in Trinity. 

Just a year after Acorn Reuse opened in September 2018, they came close to their goal of being self-financing, employing 80 people, over 70% of whom have a disability. But then the Covid pandemic hit and they stayed in lockdown slightly longer than some businesses, due to the health vulnerabilities of their staff and clients.

The new facility will also house a purpose-built self-contained area for electrical testing and function testing of goods. All electrical goods are tested before being sold, but a number of items fail these tests. To reduce the amount of waste, Acorn are trialling reclaiming scrap metal from electrical components, which will further reduce its carbon footprint.

Acorn say that these objectives will assist them, and the Government of Jersey, in the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Along with improved traffic flow, the new Acorn building will be part of a community hub for Trinity, offering free space for the parish recycling centre, mobile library and other community initiatives. 

As with all its goods, Acorn deliberately sets its prices low, so that low-income families benefit. Steve says that this is more important than ever as Covid-19 had a significant financial impact on many Islanders. 

‘Our pricing strategy will remain unchanged and we will continue to provide goods at an affordable price which will specifically support that demographic.’ 

JET executive officer Jocelyn Jacques said: ‘We are very grateful to the Government of Jersey for the Fiscal Stimulus investment of £800,000, which enables Acorn to increase its revenue, thereby creating a minimum of 10 paid jobs and 60 training opportunities for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.  

‘In the short-term, this development both retains and creates employment for people in the local community, with a minimum of 12 local contractors involved. We would like to thank the main contractors who, despite the current demands on their services, have kept to their schedule and honoured their early commitment to the project.’ 

JET have already seen that the pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Acorn is one of very few places in Jersey that offers therapeutic placements to people with significant mental health issues. More than 60% of referrals to Acorn’s Training and Development Service are from people with a mental health issue. 

Another aspect of the plans include the use of solar panels and Acorn hopes to generate enough electricity for itself in the summer months.

Building work on the centre started on the Trinity site in August and will be wind- and water-tight by Christmas, with the final internal fit-out completed early in the new year.