Climbing the mountain of usable ‘rubbish’

Imagine how different our world would be if everyone was passionate and knowledgeable about living sustainably. And if not the world, how about the difference that could be made in Waltham Forest?

In 1989, people active in the borough’s green movement created Forest Recycling Project (FRP) – one of the borough’s first social enterprises. Nearly twenty -six years on, FRP remains alive and well, and ready to play its part in realising that vision of sustainable living.

Today, FRP is home to the largest paint reselling operation in the UK.

Through our flagship project The Paint Place, we distributed nearly 80,000 litres of paint last year, mainly collected from Council re-use and recycling centres in Waltham Forest.

We resell our paint at an average price of £1 per litre, around £5 per litre less than standard retail; that’s an estimated local saving of around £400,000 last year.

Worth having, though a drop in the ocean compared to the value of an estimated 50 million litres of surplus paint in the UK in any given year sitting around unused, destined for landfill sites.

Alongside the paint business, we run a Green Office service offering waste paper collection and sale of recycled paper for small businesses; and we resell used scaffold boards, either uncut or made into small items of garden furniture.

This year, a partnership with the Best Before Project got us into running a food waste ‘pop-up shop’ in the old police station on Kirkdale Road in Leytonstone.

Food waste is an even bigger deal than surplus paint, with 5,300,000 tonnes of edible food being thrown away every year.

Just do the maths there… So, our shop offered food that had passed its ‘best before’ date collected from shops and wholesalers, and provided to the local community on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis.

The shop proved extremely popular, run by an amazing and dedicated team of volunteers, with customers flooding in daily. We’re looking to revive the shop in the Bakers Arms area in the very near future, so keep an eye on our social media spaces for news.

We’re working hard to make sustainable, low-cost living a reality, and in reading this piece we have maybe prompted you to think about what you can do.

One option is to consider volunteering with us – volunteers have been FRP’s backbone from the very beginning. We have some specific voluntary roles in warehousing and retail, though we’re always happy to hear from anyone with creative and innovative ideas around reducing waste.

As a small business there are only so many volunteers we can accommodate, so what else can you do? Two key words to keep in mind: reuse and recycle. If you need paint to brighten up that spare room, come and see us at our outlets in Walthamstow and Leytonstone, rather than buying new and possibly adding to the pool of surplus paint.

As importantly, if you’re involved in a community project – or you have friends or associates who are – and you have a building that needs freshening up, give us a call – in the right circumstances, you might well be able to get the paint you need for free!

With food, paper, wood, and paint, there’s a mountain of usable ‘rubbish’ out there to be moved and reclaimed as something useful for the local community. We’d love to hear from you with ideas about how we can do that!

By Fitzroy Andrew

Reach FRP by phone on 020 8539 3856; by email at; on the web at, Twitter @FRPonline, Facebook @FRP