repurpose and recycle

Reclaiming and repurposing is not a new idea. Salvage and scrap dealers were once a familiar sight on suburban streets, collecting waste and scrap metal with horses and carts. These old rag and bone men had access to a vibrant recycling network and thriving resale markets. Although today, specialists still salvage valuable heritage and antique products, the reuse of everyday construction materials has declined. However, a soft strip before any major refurbishment can yield many useful materials that can be repurposed.

We have a particular incentive to retrieve these materials. Like many families today, our tenants work miracles on tiny household budgets. With prices rising, it can be a real stretch to furnish a home. They may consider using high street stores which offer credit on household furnishings. These are often at appalling rates, leading to financial difficulties in the future.

When we first met Dee, she told us that she was still carrying debt from furniture she had bought in her last home. After suffering an illness, she lost her office job and that’s when the problems started. Unable to pay her rent and council tax arrears, eventually the bailiffs came to take her television and furniture. Now, Dee couldn’t get credit anywhere.

During a major refurbishment project in South London, we conducted a site survey to identify any non-structural recyclable materials such as timber, metal and plastics which could be salvaged from the building. Once we had done the soft strip, we segregated the waste materials and evaluated their condition. We decided to make some simple free standing furniture to leave in each of the flats, to help whoever moved in have something to get them started.

Since the original doors were damaged and not fit for resale,  we decided to focus on using these. The doors panels were cut out, leaving lengths of solid timber. This was stripped and made into storage boxes with lids, that could double as seating. We also managed to make free-standing shelving units and a little console table. To add some homely touches to the interiors, we trimmed old skirting board and made mirror and picture frames. From short lengths of discarded framing timber, we made colourful wooden stools.  Most of the materials from the soft strip were upcycled, while the remainder were recycled.

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