A thriving partnership between two Irish organisations has brought meaningful employment to people with disabilities while taking strides towards the achievement of Ireland’s circular economy. Gaelite.com is an Irish based company with clients across the European Union. The company has teamed up with Rehab Enterprises to support the employment of eight people with disabilities in Dublin, creating Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) foyers to house recycling machines, which are being rolled out at supermarkets across the country enabling consumers to return metallic cans and plastic bottles for recycling.
The Rehab Enterprises employees, some of whom have hearing impairments, are working with Gaelite.com to provide their expertise as they build the units to the highest standards. Rehab Enterprises, which is part of the Rehab Group, is a social enterprise which has provided supported employment to people with disabilities for over three decades. Alongside Gaelite.com, the organisation is working towards the integration of employees with disabilities into long-term employment.
The employees at the site in Ballymount, Dublin, include people from Ireland, Zimbabwe, as well as a family that have fled the war in Ukraine. Finbarr Clarkson, Managing Director of Gaelite.com, said that the partnership is a “major win-win for all involved as we are supporting people with disabilities to utilise their strengths and carpentry skills while bringing manpower to the flourishing recycling sector”. “We know that, for some employers, it can sometimes be daunting to take on an employee with a disability but we want to show how it benefits everyone. Our staff members across the company have seen what we’re doing in this site and it’s helped to build up morale all round. It doesn’t take a lot to be a little bit flexible.”
Finbarr said that “collaborating with Rehab Enterprises has been a great step forward for us as it has connected us with brilliantly talented people and we know that they are pleased to have this work, as some of them are coming from very difficult personal situations. We have a family from Ukraine working with us; a father, and a mother and a grown up daughter, who are all deaf. It shows the trust that the father places in us in Gaelite.com, that he brought his wife and daughter to work here too”.
“You couldn’t get a more loyal bunch of people”, said Dave O’Loughlin, manager at the Gaelite.com site in Ballymount speaking about the work ethic of the group of employees. “They all bring their talents and craftsmanship to the job, and the result is that we are able to create world-class DRS units which everyone will start to see when they visit their local supermarket in the coming months”. Dave, who has worked in Gaelite.com for 14 years, completed disability awareness training with Rehab Enterprises, saying it was extremely worthwhile to gain that level of understanding.
Dave added: “Some of the employees here are deaf, which means they use their own national sign language. As their manager, I didn’t know sign language when they first started working with us, but in a very short space of time, we have created our very own language here in Ballymount; it’s like a microcosm where we can communicate together as a team. There is never any issue, and I think that it’s really important to let people and businesses know; that being open to people with disabilities and people of different backgrounds, can really be so worthwhile for everyone”.
Finbarr explained how “these new units are going to make recycling more accessible at each local supermarket; the units are open and bright, and we are very happy to be part of this exciting new initiative”.
Dave added: “It’s brilliant to already see some of our DRS units when I’m shopping with my kids, and to see them being used by other shoppers. The staff get a thrill out of that too, they show me photos on their phones of the units when they spot them at their local shops”.
The Government’s deposit return scheme will go live in early 2024, helping to tackle the estimated one billion plastic bottles and 1.6 million aluminium cans that are estimated to end up in landfills/incinerators or littered in the environment. In the deposit return scheme process, a refundable deposit is placed on all PET plastic bottles and aluminium and steel cans which is then refunded to the consumer when they return their bottles and cans for recycling. The aim of a DRS is to increase recycling rates and reduce drinks container litter.