The founder of a mobility aids recycling scheme says she has come up against stiff opposition from members of the trade who are concerned that refurbished, discounted equipment will impact on their sales.
But Paula Massey, who runs UMT Upcycling and Mobility Training, said that she is not a threat to dealers and wants to work alongside them to improve their businesses.
Massey has so far accumulated nearly 1,000 mobility aids worth more than £16,000, which she cleans, refurbishes and sells on at a discounted price.
The scheme collects unwanted or unused aids and is designed to reduce the environmental impact of mobility aids while relieving pressure on the NHS, which is experiencing a shortage of crutches, wheelchairs and walking aids.
But a number of the industry’s dealers and suppliers have expressed scepticism over the not-for-profit organisation.
Massey, who has been running her initiative for the last three years, has struggled against consistent set-backs and opposition from authorities and the industry.
Now she wants to overcome the barriers and team up with businesses in the sector.
So far, Massey has only piloted the scheme in a small corner of South East Wales, but she hopes that more businesses will show an environmental conscience and willingness to relieve NHS services and help deprived end-users.
“I haven’t tried any other region yet because I didn’t want to run before I could walk because of the volume of equipment,” Massey said.
“It’s never been about making money, it’s about the environment and giving work to individuals who need it. I’ve managed to collect a huge amount of equipment in a short space of time and now people are starting to notice.
“I can understand retailers not wanting me to sell the equipment in case it impacts on their sales. But at the end of the day, we should be recycling and we shouldn’t be buying new all the time.
“If there’s a wonky wheel on a walking frame, if we can replace that wheel and everything else is fine, why can’t that be used?”
She continued: “You’ve got people in deprived areas who may not have the money to go into a mobility shop and buy something brand new. So those people will never actually go into a mobility shop anyway. It’s not like recycling equipment is stopping the sale.
“[Dealers] may see me as a threat. I’m not a threat. I’m just trying to help the people who can’t afford to walk through [a mobility shop’s] doors. The customers would otherwise be going online to buy something for less which might be the wrong size or unsuitable for their needs.
“If they don’t have the money, the first place they’re going to go is online. This has got to be tackled.”
Some retailers Massey has approached have explained to her that people sometimes turn up at their door with equipment they want to give away. But few dealers have storage for such equipment and have to tell customers to just scrap the items.
Her message to distributors in such a scenario is not to turn equipment away.
She added: “Don’t let that happen anymore because I can take it away. If it’s privately bought, I will take it and I will find it a new home. I’m going to be doing a trusted assessor’s course soon so when I give out equipment I’m giving people the correct product and information.”