Monday, 16 December 2013

Great tip - where to find cheap recycled materials this Xmas!

The Scrapstore in Gloucester is part of a 30 year old network of 90 such scrap depositories across the UK. It is a brilliantly clever charity that collects unwanted but suitable scrap from industry and puts it up for sale to families,students and groups for creative upcycling.

My trip to the Gloucester  Scrapstore above felt like stumbling in a sugar-deprived state on a candy-bejewelled gingerbread house! For a mere £6-12 you can load a shopping trolley with leftover industrial stuff, unloved discarded fabric and all manner of excess-to-requirements plastic thingies gifted by the county's businesses. For a short taste of what I mean see the video below.

The pity of it - to my entrepreneurial mind - is that it is not open to small craftspeople busy trying to scratch a living from making and selling beautiful objects from recycled materials. Well, yes, you can take out
family or student membership but you are not meant to use the flotsam and jetsam for commercial purposes. Shame.

This is clearly manna from heaven though for the groups that do have access and what a clever way to save unwanted clobber from landfill! According to City Works, the set-up behind the Scrapstore, more than 80 tons of business waste was diverted from landfill by them in 2012-13 and used by 1,770 local Gloucestershire groups. Their links to similar scrapstores across the country mean they can exchange collected waste so each store can offer a much wider range of materials.

Managing Director City Works Lin Matthews

Managing Director City Works Lin Matthews showed me round the warehouse and explained how more of an entrepreneurial mind-set was necessary after their public funding was cut at the end of 2012. Fortunately, the charity had the foresight to buy their former coat cuffs and collars factory building in the 1990s and income from office space, events rooms, dance and art studios helps keep the charity afloat.

Lin and her staff have built up working relationships with businesses across Gloucestershire which provide the Scrapstore with anything from over-productions of latex gloves to plastic bottle tops to unwanted scraps of leather cut offs. The Scrapstore has to be picky about what it will accept but the firms they work with are prepared to separate the materials that can be taken away from what is genuinely unusable rubbish.

Until now the Scrapstore was prepared to pick up this landfill fodder for free - effectively taking it off the hands of the providers, but Lin is now involved in talks about charging the firms a membership fee too. Membership fees at present for groups using the Scrapstore range from £22-38 and  from £7-10 for guide and youth groups to families and students. Members have access to all sorts of information on what they can do with these outlandish materials as well as an onsite arts materials shop. Opening hours are on Tuesdays from 10am-7pm and on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am-5pm. There is also a small gallery displaying the imaginative works that can be produced - see below for pictures of just a few of them!


Do you have a good tip to share on where to source recycled or upcyled materials? If so please let me know.

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