A couple of days ago I visited a microbrewery in Keighley. The Old Bear Brewery produces a variety of beers and the one I have tasted was very good.
However, I didn't go there to sample the goods. I went to see the Bottle Rescue scheme run by the brewery and employing a number of people with learning disabilities. It seems that this might be the only environmental charity project of its kind in the country – rescuing bottles from landfill or glass-recycling, with all the CO2 implications of such processes. This is a private company doing excellent work – at its own expense – for the good of wider society.
What is surprising about the project is that there isn't more support from a government that wants to reduce the welfare bill, but doesn't allow the sort of model that helps businesses like the Old Bear Brewery to make money from the project, pay the 'workers' a wage and make it work for everyone on a sustainable basis. But, that isn't the point of this post.
Bottle Rescue involves between 20-30 people who use Bradford and District NHS Care Trust services. Around 1.25 tonnes of glass is collected every week from across West Yorkshire. A quarter of the bottles are suitable for washing and processing for re-use by breweries, shops and drink manufacturers around the country. The national learning disability charity HFT runs the project with the brewery.
The reason I went there – and spent an enjoyable and informative hour and a half – was a bit odd. Ian Cowling, who runs the brewery, heard a Lent Lecture I did last March on BBC Radio 4, picked up on something I was saying about community projects. He emailed me to tell me about Bottle Rescue and I emailed back to ask if I could visit. It took a while to get it in the diary, but it was worth the wait (from my perspective, at least).
The story was written up in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, but I can't find a link!