We REfUSE to be part of a wasteful food system. We  need to RE-think. We REscue, REclaim and RE-use, so that good food doesn’t become REfUSE.

REfUSE’s vision is show the value in things, places and people that are unjustly wasted or overlooked. Each month we intercept around 12 tonnes of food that would otherwise go to waste, from retailers around the North East. We then redistribute it to people, though our ‘Pay As You Feel’ community cafe and restaurant in Chester-le-Street, our private catering brand Conscious Kitchen, partnerships with other charities and our Waste-Not Box delivery scheme.

We are part of an informal network of similar Pay As You Feel cafes and food waste activists around the UK: see full list here.


Up to 40% of the food produced globally is either left rotting in fields, lost along the food supply chain or dumped into landfill. We intercept tonnes and tonnes of perfectly good food that has wrongly been labelled ‘worthless’ due to scandalous systematic problems: overproduction, strict cosmetic standards, damaged packaging, incorrect labelling, seasonal packaging, best-before dates, cancelled orders… etc.

REfUSE is based in Chester-le-Street: in April 2018 we launched a creative and inclusive ‘Pay As You Feel’ community cafe on the high street. We also run restaurant nights, education projects, and a supported volunteering scheme. We are raising awareness and educating about the climate and ecological impact of food waste, building community and providing healthy food and good company to anyone that wants it.

We operate on a ‘Pay As You Feel’ basis: guests can pay for their meals in cash, but non-monetary donations of time or skills are just as valuable.  We believe PAYF encourages us to think about the true value of food: the resources, time and energy that has gone into producing it, but also includes and empowers those who may struggle to afford food.


Built by volunteers, run by volunteers, and fuelled by food waste, our cafe is a beautiful place of inclusive community and creativity.

Our opening times are:

  • Tuesday 10am-4pm
  • Wednesday 10am-4pm
  • Thursdays 10am-4pm
  • Fridays 10am-4pm
  • Saturdays 10am-4pm

REfUSE Restaurant evenings: When lockdown restrictions allow, we run these every Thursday evening, with a different theme and different guest chef each week – booking only (email Michelle)

We also run open mic nights, music gigs, craft fairs, clothes swaps, and other one-off events: ‘like’ us on Facebook to keep track, or see ‘Upcoming Events’ at the bottom of this page. Other groups and organisations use the cafe space too – including a regular toddler group on Mondays and church meeting on Sundays. Would you like to hire our cafe space for your event or group? Click here!

Waste Not Boxes

In the North East alone over 800,000 tonnes of food waste are generated every year. That’s over a third of food produced for us to eat. We think that’s rubbish and we hope you agree.

We don’t see this food as ‘waste’, we see beautiful and valuable food, and we see the energy, time, fuel, water and other resources that have gone into making it, packaging it and getting it to our supermarket shelves. Join us in giving it value and stopping this waste of resources.

A Waste Not Box is a crate full of good food, intercepted by us, otherwise wasted. It will always include a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, chilled goods, baked goods and some meat or vegetarian options

Boxes cost £15, all proceeds go directly to paying for our costs of collecting and sorting food and making it available to those who are struggling, through partnerships with other charities and through our PAYF community shop.

Waste Not Boxes are available most Thursdays and Saturday mornings ‘first come, first served’ from the cafe. However, you can also order a month’s worth of box deliveries via our website shop page, to DH1, DH2 and DH3 postcodes only. Read our FAQs here, and Terms and Conditions here.

“REfUSE have provided the catering for us at both a large buffet reception and an important corporate 3 course client dinner. On both occasions their professionalism shone through and the food was quite exceptional. For us, it was a winning combination – a high quality event which impressed our guests and supported a brilliant organisation.”

“It’s the first time in a long time I’ve heard strangers talking to each other and helping each other out.”

“Wonderful cafe. Super friendly staff, amazing food and buzzing atmosphere. Cannot wait to go again!”

Anthea and Leanne Cafe customers

“It’s so much more than a cafe. Refuse has changed my life, has given me so much confidence, has soothed my mental health and has brought me so many opportunities, including an array of friends who I think of as now family.”

“The Cafe gives me friendship, diversity, learning, role models, and a way of giving back.”

“Every day is like Ready Steady Cook on a larger scale!”

Paige, Irene and Maz Volunteers

Conscious Kitchen: Thoughtful Catering

Conscious Kitchen is a private events caterer launched by REfUSE CIC in August 2020.
We offer high-quality, ethical catering for weddings, parties and conferences, delivered to your venue or served by our staff. As well as partnering with world-class chefs to produce delicious, high quality food, Conscious Kitchen will also give you the opportunity to reduce the environmental and ecological impact of your event and provide work opportunities to those with barriers to employment.
Any profit made by Conscious Kitchen will go back into REfUSE’s community work across County Durham. This means that by choosing us for your event your money is going to help  divert food from landfill and making it accessible to North East communities through our community cafe, Pay-As-You-Feel pantry and many other local charities.
We provide a range of options from three-course table service to delivered party buffets. Please have a look through our brochure for more information and don’t hesitate to get in touch with events@refusedurham.org.uk to talk through options, share your requirements and receive a no-obligation quote.


Get Involved


It’s really easy to volunteer with us. Whether collecting food, chopping, serving, entertaining or making coffees at the café: any time you can give would be very valued. To volunteer, email volunteering@refusedurham.org.uk to find out hen our next volunteer training sessions is.

Food Retailers

We can help you to reduce costs by working through strategies to reduce your food waste. Our team are experienced working with all levels of food businesses, skilled in logistics and analytics. Where food surplus is unavoidable, we can take that surplus and make sure it feeds bellies not bins. Working with us will provide an opportunity to show how you care about your community and the environment. Get in touch.