Paint the town (recycled) red

Thanks to Forest Recycling Project, locals can buy reclaimed paint for an average of £2.50 a litre

By Gosia Rokicka from Forest Recycling Project

Les Nicholas from the Forest Recycling Project (credit: FRP)

It’s easy to buy more paint than you need. Most amateur decorators struggle to estimate how much they’ll need for a room and err on the side of caution, even if it proves more costly for both their wallet and the planet.

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK households have enough leftover paint hanging around to coat the nine mile-long Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland 212 times. While some of those hanging on may be hoping they’ll find a use for it in future, many are likely at a loss for what to do that isn’t just chucking it in a bin.

In Waltham Forest, however, we are lucky enough to have a convenient option. The Forest Recycling Project in Bakers Avenue is among the oldest charities in the borough and one of its many goals is to save as much paint as possible from the rubbish tip. 

The charity gathers paint from nearby recycling centres to its Leytonstone warehouse, where it is sorted, refreshed and often remixed so it can be sold to locals at an affordable price, often around £2.50 per litre.

Les Nicholas, a Walthamstow resident, has been a driver and paint mixer for the charity for more than 15 years, having started out as a volunteer before he was hired a few weeks later. “This job never gets boring,” he said. “I’m a hands-on person who likes seeing things done.” 

His colleague Clive Henry, from Leyton, has worked at Forest Recycling Project for a decade, making it his longest-running job ever.

Clive (credit: FRP)

He said: “I like working with paint but I didn’t want to go back to work as a full-time decorator: I enjoy contact with people and I like sharing my expertise with customers.

“[Our] operations have improved over the years. We used to do many different things related to recycling but now we focus on paint, fabrics and scaffolding wood.”

In addition to selling reclaimed paint out of its warehouse in The Sidings and shop in Walthamstow, the charity runs the popular Walthamstow Tool Library on the Priory Court Estate.

Alison Griffin, chief executive of Forest Recycling Project, said: “You can get wonderful reclaimed and upcycled things from us[…] it’s a really strong way to be part of the circular economy.

“Don’t ever paint your house with paint from anywhere else if you live locally, as that has a huge environmental impact alone.”

Make sure to take any of your leftover paint to your nearest recycling centre, rather than to the charity directly. Find out more about what we do and how to volunteer with us on our website.