Transatlantic Trade Benefits Scottish Furniture Charities

Transatlantic Trade Benefits Scottish Furniture Charities


An innovative trading deal between furniture charities in Scotland and a not-for-profit organisation in Oregon in the USA has resulted in thousands of pounds being generated for community projects on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Scotland, there are 59 community-based furniture projects that provide free or low cost household items to over 50,000 individuals and families a year, many of whom are moving out of homelessness. These organisations rely on the hundreds of thousands of donations of furniture they get from the Scottish public each year, but they often find that they are offered too many large wooden items such as sideboards, wardrobes and dressing tables. It can be difficult to find home for this type of furniture due to its size and age and, until recently, most of it ended up in landfill sites.

In 2003, this all changed when Terry McDonald, the CEO of St Vincent de Paul Lane County, Oregon came to Scotland and visited a number of furniture projects. It was clear to him that there was a market for these items in the USA. Terry says ¡¥It became apparent during my visit that the old wooden wardrobes and sideboards which are problem items in the UK would have a high value in my part of the world. So we came up with a solution to this; we immediately agreed to go into partnership with Scottish projects and start importing their old furniture into the US¡¦.

Learning how to export furniture was a daunting task for most furniture projects so the Community Recycling Network for Scotland (CRNS), a support network for community reuse and recycling organisations, got involved and began to help Scottish projects, with excess wooden furniture, access the new partnership . Since then around 30 shipping containers of furniture have made their way across the Atlantic. When it gets to the US, some of the furniture goes directly to people in need and the rest is sold, with the profits being used to support SVDP-run social service programmes in Oregon and the community furniture projects in Scotland.

HomeAid West Lothian, a furniture project based in Bathgate, was the first to Scottish project to send a shipment to the USA and has since sent over 97 tonnes of furniture. Jackie Agnew, Coordinator of HomeAid West Lothian says ¡¥People are often surprised when they hear that a community project is exporting to America. But before this scheme was set up, we were turning down hundreds of wardrobes and sideboards. Now we can  not only stop these items going to landfill but the money we make through selling them in the US helps us support people in our local community¡¦. HomeAid West Lothian has recently been nominated for a Vision in Business for the Environment in Scotland (VIBES) 2005 Award.

Linsay Chalmers, Furniture Projects Coordinator with the CRNS says ¡¥The type of furniture which goes to the US is old and beautifully made but it¡¦s out of fashion in the UK. When Terry told us how valuable it was in the US, we were astonished but also very pleased to hit on a way to save the furniture from landfill and generate some money for furniture projects at the same time¡¦.

There are now 7 furniture projects in Scotland shipping furniture to the USA through the scheme and SVDP Lane County has been able to set up a specialist shop for the furniture called ¡¥Tea and Crumpets¡¦.

The CRNS is now working to expand the scheme to other projects in Scotland.

For more information on furniture projects go to:

Contact for more information:
Linsay Chalmers, CRNS Furniture Projects Coordinator
Tel: 07980 895182 E-mail:
27 Stirling Business Centre, Wellgreen Place, Stirling FK8 2DZ
Tel: 01786 469002 Fax: 01786 469058 Web:

Rebecca Larson, Community Development Director, St Vincent de Paul Lane County
705 South Seneca Street, PO Box 24608 Eugene, OR 97402
Tel: 001 541-687-5820 E-mail: Web:

Jackie Agnew, Coordinator, HomeAid West Lothian
14 Gideon Street, Bathgate, EH54 1HD
Tel: 01506 652230  E-mail:

Source: CRNS