Work starts at the site of Glasgow's rubbish church

By Huw Williams
BBC Scotland reporter


It's been called Grand Designs meets Scrapheap Challenge.

But for me it's more like what could have happened if Stig of the Dump or Uncle Bulgaria had been ministers of the Kirk.

Colston Milton Parish Church is fund-raising, to put up a new building and community centre. Nothing too unusual about that, you may think. But it's going to be built of recycled rubbish.

To be specific: four tonnes of beer cans; a dozen redundant shipping containers; 300 industrial pallets; and 500 used car tyres.

But they're starting small.

Work is starting on the first building that'll go up on the site - an "energy awareness hub".

It'll be based in two containers - the sort of thing that's used to ship goods around the word.

They've reached the end of their useful life, and were due to go for scrap. But they're finding a new life - perhaps been born again? - hosting a small exhibition on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

The minister, the Reverend Christopher Rowe, sees a profound message in the reuse of rubbish.

"I love this idea that nothing is wasted," he told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme.

"There's something deeply right that in God's economy nothing - from people, to time, to materials, to resources - is wasted."

He says the "big idea" is to use stuff that would otherwise be considered rubbish, "that would otherwise be considered not just useless, but a problem to get rid of".

"The car tyres (for example) can't go into landfill, because they heat it up," he said. "But that very quality can be used in a building to produce somewhere that keeps its heat quite well."

image captionThe Rev Christopher Rowe said he loved the idea that "nothing is wasted"

Hannah Buss, the trainee architect who's working on the design, says the buildings will begin to provide "some of the essential community space that is needed in Milton".

"There's nowhere at the moment," she added.

I met her in the workshop - based at a disused youth club, next to the primary school - where she's started work on the wooden panels that will transform, and insulate, the steel boxes that'll house the display.

In line with the whole ethos of the scheme, those panels are being custom-made from old scaffolding boards, that have been thrown away.

The hope is that the first tangible signs that work is under way on the site will help to develop construction techniques that can be used on the main buildings. And generate more enthusiastic volunteers to work on the project.

"All the techniques that we're hoping to work with will be techniques that anyone can get involved with," Hannah explained.

"There will be some aspects of the building that we will need to get people in. But we're hoping that the majority of it will be built by the hands of people in Milton."

'Heart of the community'

The site that's been chosen is just down the hill from the enormous building that was home to the congregation, now sold-off for redevelopment into flats.

It's an area of grass where there used to be tenements, which have now been demolished.

People exercise their dogs there. But there's also very visible evidence that some people start fires, or leave rubbish there. And anecdotes suggest it's where stolen cars get raced, or dumped.

image captionHannah Buss is a trainee architect who is working on the building's design

Mr Rowe, though, is optimistic.

"This is as close as you can get to the heart of the community in Milton," he said. "It's where the buses terminate. There are shops.

"So the idea is to get something down on a piece of derelict land that, at the moment, is a bit of an eyesore. To get a good community asset there."

After the energy hub, the church should be next. Then there are plans for a theatre, a cafe, a gallery, and offices for rent.

It's hoped news that work is under way should encourage funding bodies to come forward with offers of cash to complete the project.

And it's hoped that the rest of us will get the message - that recycling is something positively good, and not just something rather worthy.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "It's so easy and important to recycle what we can, be it recycling an additional item or recycling more of what you already do more frequently - and this project shows just what can be achieved.

"Latest figures show Scotland's households already recycle nearly 44% of waste, but there's still a lot more we could all be doing and I encourage everyone to go that bit further and recycle more recyclable items, more often, to make Scotland a true zero waste society."

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