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Swindon Scrapstore is the place to find some real gems
WILL your plastic desk-tidy one day hold the treasures of some child who hasn’t even been born yet?
Will that shiny new printer in the corner of the office end up cranking out vital newsletters for a community group?
Will that stack of cardboard document folders end up as part of a fancy dress costume or carnival float?
Frankly, I have no idea, but if the answer turns out to be ‘yes’ and you live or work in Swindon, the chances are that the Scrapstore will be involved somewhere along the line.
“I couldn’t go back to working in the commercial sector, not after doing this job,” said Olivia McCann, who became project manager at the Scrapstore Reuse Centre in 2001 after a few years working for a business selling ornamental rocks and other garden items.
Olivia, 39, has day-to-day responsibility for a registered charity and social enterprise which has five part-time staff, 21 regular volunteers, contacts wth countless organisations and an annual footfall of more than 40,000.
Scrapstore is the place where individuals, companies, schools, nurseries, care homes, community groups and many others come to donate, exchange, barter and buy. Items can be bought for as little as a fiver a basket or a tenner a trolley.
Olivia summed up her guiding principles as: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, if you don’t ask you don’t get and no man is an island. We have to rely on others to get where we are.
“It’s a fantastic charity and it does fantastic work. It’s not just the environmental benefits that everybody should care about – it’s the difference that it makes to the lives of the people who volunteer, to the community and to children.”
The Scrapstore is a treasure house with a difference: just about everything there would have ended up pulped, shredded, crushed or landfilled if it hadn’t been donated, even though it’s all useful.
On one shelf, for example, are ranks of archive boxes from our research councils, which once held reams of paper and will likely end up crammed with children’s art supplies or school equipment. Huge boxes contain rolls of fabric that not enough people wanted to make ordinary clothes from, but which will probably end up as costumes in nativity plays, parades and community theatre productions.
A row of unsold charity shop paperbacks includes Stephen King’s It, an epic featuring a monstrous clown, while on the other side of the aisle a clown toy grins innocently through the cellophane front of his box.
There are unused pill bottles, plastic cups, domed CCTV camera casings, cds, goods trolleys, thousands of sheets of paper, hundreds of notebooks, novelties, old but useable printers and scanners, folders, modems (some stamped with the old ntl logo), and monitors still bearing the stickers with which previous users personalised them.
There are nuts, bolts, a box of plaster plaques saying ‘Just Wedded’. There are jigsaws, board games, teddy bears, paint, glue, light switches and some Winnie the Pooh alphabet fridge magnets – but only ones with the letter ‘E’.
There is even a selection of promotional knick-knack tins marking the release of an album by American new-punk outfit Green Day.
All will be useful to somebody, and their uses are often very inventive.
“Some people use carpet sample tiles on their stairs,” said Olivia, “and a school put carpet tiles together with cable ties to make a rug.”
The Scrapstore was recently in the news after its move to a new home, Unit 2 in Bramble Close on the Elgin Industrial Estate.
This is its fourth location since the Scrapstore was founded under the aegis of Friends of the Earth in 1985.
From there it moved to Cheney Manor, where not even a flood and a devastating electrical fire managed to halt its work. The Scrapstore’s next home was the old Farepak site in West Swindon, and when that faced demolition it was time for another move. “We moved out on the Friday and opened here on the Tuesday,” said Olivia. “We never missed a day’s trading.”