Most people’s attitude to construction waste from their building project is “I didn’t want it so why should anyone else”. But, hand-on-heart, the most fulfilling part of our building works so far has been finding a home for materials that would otherwise go to landfill. Through the desire to bin as little as possible I’ve met the most ingenious people with heart-warming stories of visions to repurpose things that I don’t want.
First, there was Tom – a young carpenter embarking on a project to build a workshop for himself out of windows. Old windows that, to me were so decayed and broken that their only future would be rotting in a landfill site, to Tom were beautiful examples of skilled craftsmanship to be revived to their former glory and set within his workshop facade.
Then, there were Michael and Jenny who arrived late one night with a horsebox to collect sheets of corrugated iron and garage doors. They run an animal rescue centre and needed the materials to build a shelter for their growing family of rescue donkeys.
Then came Ray and Corinne who came back 9 times to collect limestone for a walling project around a hobbit house they’d built in their garden. As a young girl growing up on a hill farm in Yorkshire, Corinne watched her father repairing his dry stone walls and wanted our limestone rubble to re-create her father’s craft in Oxfordshire.
And finally, there was John who came to collect limestone to build a shrine to a ‘living saint’ called Cardinal Newman? Can anyone enlighten me?
All of these people came to me through Freecycle, a completely free, non-profit movement that connects people to keep stuff out of landfill. Other similar organisations include Freegle and Enviromate. The latter is specifically for building materials and I’ve had less luck with it but it gives you the option of both gifting and selling and probably works well in a big marketplace like London.
Freecycling takes a bit of effort but not as much as you think because when people are getting something for free they are amazingly efficient and obliging. We’re lucky because we have a bit of space to store stuff before collection but if you upload images ahead of demolition you can generate interest and ensure quick collection. Not only is the act of giving immensely rewarding it’s also wonderful to meet local people and hear about their intriguing plans to give old materials a new lease of life.
The photo is not my own – it’s off Google Images so many thanks to the anonymous and inspired photographer who took it.