Their collection and drop-off service makes it easier for people to give away their mattresses to experts who are able to make them like new. It creates jobs that care about people and the environment and is driven by the following vision and mission:
- To position Bounce Back Recycling as a nationally recognised brand and the industry leader in Ireland for the recycling of mattresses by:
- Building a sustainable and growing social enterprise that will recycle 100,000 mattresses by 2025.
- Delivering, training, work experience and employment opportunities for 28 men and women from the Traveller community.
- Empowering the Traveller community, where Travellers claim their economic rights and claiming their enterprise space in Ireland
To explore and expand new social enterprise opportunities in order to increase employment opportunities for Traveller men and women, develop a powerful model of economic self-determination to inspire the wider community, and reclaim the community’s role in environmental and economic sustainability.
They also aim to promote the visibility of their work in order to challenge racism and discrimination. In the last five years, BBR has become a national leader in mattress recycling in Ireland. They have expanded their operations from Galway to delivering a nationwide service to commercial clients and delivering their services to householders across 12 counties. BounceBack already works with several local authorities and retail outlets to improve their recycling rates. This has meant that they have grown from 3 staff to 16 and have been able to increase the number of mattresses recycled from 3,000 to 25,000 per annum. The recycled components from the mattresses are used in various industries such as steel manufacturing, textile manufacturing, and carpet manufacturing. This, in turn, creates gainful employment and reduces high dependency on landfill or incineration that has huge consequences for the environment. They deliver social and environmental impacts that make economic sense.
The Traveller-led social enterprise sets out to showcase the Traveller economy with its wealth of enterprise and entrepreneurial skills many of which have been passed down through generations. BounceBack Recycling demonstrates to the wider community the ingenuity, innovation and ambition that exists in the Traveller community. The model is an example of what can be achieved when the workplace is free of racism and discrimination.
By employing a team of Travellers, they have helped to ensure that there are 16 fewer Travellers unemployed, and they are each contributing enormously to the social enterprise’s drive. Martin Ward, manager at BounceBack, says they are very focused on improving the number of gainfully employed Travellers.
“Travellers find it very hard to get employment, and the unemployment rate [among them] is over 80 percent – even during the boom times here in Ireland,” Martin explained to the Western Development Commission. “There was an attitudes and behaviours study on the Traveller community done in 2018, and it found that only 17 percent of non-Travellers would employ a Traveller…and yet Travellers will often be blamed that we do not want to work. So, in that sense, we have tried to make that social change, and that would benefit Travellers having jobs – and the environmental impact around the mattress recycling would benefit all of society.”
Martin says that one of the proudest moments of his journey with BounceBack has been around “busting the myth that Travellers don’t want to work”. For Martin, BounceBack has these two goals – the environmental and the social – and they are incredibly proud of what they have managed to achieve. Perhaps more importantly, BounceBack has been a way for members of the Traveller community to reclaim their identity – bringing them in touch with their traditional roots as people who repurposed old material and breathe new life into sometimes unwanted items.
“We’re reclaiming our community space as the original recyclers of Ireland – because, over 100 years ago or more, Travellers were recycling old tin, in the way of tinsmiths by making pots and pans. We have lovely buzzwords at the minute – ‘the circular economy’ – but Travellers were actually driving that well over 100 years ago,” Martin said.
BounceBack have an incredible business model – driven by their own motivation, and fuelled by their nous to make connections with people like business trainer Declan Droney who has worked closely with businesses to improve their efficiency. For BounceBack, what is a relatively simple idea has grown into a genuine powerhouse, but how did Martin get started on the journey – was it always his ambition to become a social entrepreneur?
“I never set out to be a social entrepreneur – I had a business background, but it was how we could use that to make positive change on a community who are marginalised, so it was driven by that social change that you cannot get from a financial bottom line of a company,” Martin said.
Martin is well aware of how important funding is to the BounceBack cause – and he mentions how positive it is to have funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development. They’ve also drawn on financial support from Rethink Ireland which is another fantastic resource for social enterprises to make use of as they grow.
For Martin, too, though, it’s equally important that organisations like BounceBack are able to become self-sustaining. “But, we’re trying to build a model that is sustainable so that we’re not always depending on that money coming in; it’s balancing the social and business piece but never really moving away from the reasons why you set up in the first place. Because, if it gets diluted, it’ll be off-course and you’ll forget the social perspective of setting up the social enterprise.”
For Martin, it’s important that those two strands are married together because one won’t work without the other. Importantly, too, Martin says that it’s encouraging to see social enterprise being brought up more often.
“Social entrepreneurs are being talked about more now, but when we started in 2009 with our first social enterprise, there wasn’t much happening in the space, so it has been a long journey to get to this point, in building the awareness of service users to use social enterprises because there’ll be much more value left in the community and much more bang for the buck if they engage with ourselves in creating employment, green jobs, and driving the circular economy,” Martin explains.
There’s no doubt that BounceBack are doing important work – both for the travelling community and the environment. Not only that, but they are highlighting to the wider community just how crucial diversity and inclusion are for everybody to take note of.