A new industry for Watchet

Dear Watchet,

Re: Invitation to an open community workshop to discuss ideas for a new industry in Watchet, Methodist Church Schoolroom, 7-8.30pm, Tuesday 16th October.

As many of you will know, a year ago Onion Collective started a piece of research that asked what a new sustainable and inclusive growth industry for Watchet could be, to help the area recover from the closure of the Mill and the huge loss of jobs that we suffered here at the end of 2015. Over the past twelve months we have carried out a multi-faceted piece of analysis to understand what could work here now.

Some 250 years ago, it was the unity of the town’s docks, river, and railway that established its viability as a manufacturing hub. Times have changed but we believe that opportunities do still exist if we can harness current assets.

Our research has led us to explore the feasibility of a bio-recycling centre, which we think has real potential. We grant you this doesn’t sound that cool on the face of it - but trust us, it is! Bio-recycling is at the forefront of global science. It involves using living organisms to process ‘waste’ and turn it into new products. So agricultural waste could become highly efficient insulation material; coffee grounds could become coffee cups; and we hope, in time, to be able to process complex and formerly unrecyclable plastics and turn them into new products.

At this point you’re probably wondering what we actually know about delivering this project. Well, we are currently in conversation with leading waste collectors, industry, universities and Government as to how we might go forward. This kind of ambition needs a lot of support to get off the ground, and so far, it’s looking really hopeful. And it has the potential to create a huge number of jobs, in science and technology, product design, sales and marketing, procurement, as well as a whole host of start-up opportunities alongside in micro-industries that make use of the products made from the process – the spectrum of possibilities is vast. And it would include a huge number of apprenticeships and training opportunities for local people.

There are of course no guarantees, this is still at concept stage, but our research to date is showing that it is feasible and has huge potential – and we have scientists and engineers who want to work with us to make it happen. We are also talking to the new owners of the Mill site about using some of the space there to make this science-recycling centre happen.

But before we go any further, we’d like to invite you to come and hear more, share your views and discuss ideas. We also hope to discuss potential partnerships and products; but most importantly, how to make this a whole town endeavor that gives everyone who lives here a meaningful stake in this.

We would therefore like to invite you to an open community workshop, downstairs in the Methodist Church on Harbour Road from 7-8.30pm on Tuesday 16th October, to explore these big questions.

Just so we have an idea of the number of people likely to come, it would be great if you could register your name here. If you can’t come but would like to share your thoughts or ask more questions, you can either drop us an email (sally@onioncollective.co.uk), call on 01984 633496, or arrange to come and see us.

We look forward to discussing this with you soon!

Yours sincerely,

The Onions


1. Interior of now closed Watchet Paper Mill, credit Glyn Jarrett

2. Construction material made from mycelium (vegetative part of a mushroom), credit BIOHM

3 Flooring material made from waste materials, credit BIOHM

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