BWL etc.: Solowood Recycling

BWL etc.: Solowood Recycling

By Chloë Stewart

BWL etc.: Solowood Recycling

Over the course of this nibs etc. journey, I have spent days and days and days, researching; the 'most sustainable' packaging [stay tuned for THAT post], the most sustainable merchandise, the most sustainable display, the most sustainable way to do almost anything related to nibs etc..  And I've learnt about some incredibly inspiring people/brands/journeys along the way, redefining the concept of waste, much like us.  I'm eager to shed light on their stories, share what I've discovered, in the hopes that it helps you build your own toolkit with which to take control of your consumption, actions and habits, and act in a way you want in order to be more positively impactful.  This marks the start of a series, Brands We Love [BWL].  So here's a little behind the scenes with our first feature: Solo Wood Recycling.

From day one, for every decision we are about to make we pause: will this decision result in any waste?  And if so, what kind, what happens to it, and can it be avoided. 

No surprises then I was ecstatic to learn about Solo Wood Recycling, via Bulk shop in Tooting Bec Market, and Re:Store Refill in Hackney Downs Studios [where you can find our granola packaging free].  They upcycle wood, keeping it out of landfill, and they're a social enterprise, empowering vulnerable adults in their community with skills.  They can make anything and everything, and are open to all projects.  They know their trade and their materials in side and out: listen to their advice.  It was the biggest joy to work with them and see them bring the dream for my new Borough Market stall to life: wheels, storage, and bulk dispensers included.  I would recommend them to anyone. 

Have a read of our interview with Chris, founder and Charlie, carpenter, on what drives them, and what makes them different.

1. Can you give us an introduction - what is Solo Wood Recycling
Chris: The South London Wood recycling project (SOLO WOOD for short) is primarily concerned with the reduction of wood waste going into landfill. We work alongside a national community of wood recyclers who are trying to change the perception of waste management and the deeply wasteful nature of many of our national industries particularly the construction industry. By competitively pricing our services we can change the throw away culture that is at the core of our economy and champion more sustainable practices. This is made possible through our own hard work but also the willingness on the side of big industry to use us as an alternative to landfill which is increasingly being built into project planning from the very beginning.

Charlie: We collect 80 to 100 tonnes of wood waste per month from
predominantly large industrial sites. The wood is then sorted and
sold on or turned into beautiful, bespoke furniture in our
workshop!  On top of this Solo Wood Recycling is a Social Enterprise, and strives to do a lot for the local community. One of the biggest focuses is providing employment opportunities for vulnerable adults, who we get involved in many ways in our daily schedule. We are constantly discussing ideas about how we can expand and do even more, especially in terms of serving our local community and teaching a wide range of people valuable skills.

2. Where did the idea for upcycling, as a social enterprise, originally come from?
Chris: I have always been self employed, working on building sites, decorating and gardening.  After Uni I worked for a small social enterprise attempting to enrich impoverished communities through various means. At the same time I had been involved in upcycling reclaimed timber for various projects and the idea to combine theses skills and a desire for helping people and the environment all came together and culminated into Solo Wood.

3. What is one thing you wish people knew about Solo Wood
Chris: I wish more people knew how seriously we take our jobs and the professionalism with which we approach our roles within this industry as the leaders of change and innovation. It has taken 4 years of hard work and sweat to get to this point. The very first push is the hardest when trying to gather momentum but we are really motoring on now, we have a great team that all share the ethos and vision of our firm.

Charlie: I wish people knew the amount of hard work that every member of our team puts in to make this a successful business. Challenges are often underestimated. We are not just a team but a family and no matter how the roles of each member differ, each person is equally important and valued, I could feel
this from the day I started.

4. Describe your workplace in 3 words:
Chris: Challenging, innovative, rewarding

Charlie: Caring. Inspiring. Positive.

5. What is the long term, big picture dream, for Solo Wood
Chris: Long term we need to grow and develop our business into being an industry leader and a household name. We are currently looking into diversifying our revenue streams whilst improving our social and environmental impact.... in the short term we want to run courses for children and adults to relate this to them. We like to branch out in partnerships with other like minded companies and enterprises to amplify meaningful changes in peoples lives; building planters with people to encourage their own food production which could in turn partly combat the obesity epidemic and increase peoples awareness of food and the impact it can have is just one example.... with the team we have and our ambitions the sky is the limit. 

Charlie: As the only firm doing all the we do in London, the dream is to really set the trend and open peoples eyes to the reclaimed timber market. And naturally, to continuously grow and develop our
business, keeping more and more wood out of landfills!

6. How do you hope to make a difference?
Chris: We don't hope to make a difference, we do make a difference. We work to stretch the budgets of numerous cash strapped organisations from schools to faith groups and everything in between... we have supported the creation of reading areas inside and outside of class rooms, community gardens, ramps for disabled access to buildings to name but a few. At the same time we stop thousands of tonnes of wood waste a year going into landfill whilst creating jobs within the local economy and working alongside vulnerable adults of mixed abilities, offering them voluntary placements to assist us in the yard with a variety of task all of which gives them a greater sense of personal accomplishment and social interaction with our team and our many customers.

7. What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Chris: From nothing, comes nothing... the world doesn't owe you a thing so you better get busy making your dreams come true or you'll work for someone else making theirs happen.

Charlie: To do what truly makes you happy. And I'm pleased to say that I followed that advice; I do exactly what makes me happy both inside and outside of work and my life is better than ever before.

8. What's your favourite Autumn meal?
Chris: Honestly cannot beat a Sunday roast with all the trimmings.

Charlie: Mash potatoes with roasted/boiled vegetables and gravy
(completely plant based)

9. Where would we find you on a Sunday morning?
Chris: It's my only day off in the week so in bed chilling unless I've got a tight deadline I need to meet, then I'll be at work.
Charlie: Either with family or somewhere outdoors immersed in nature.

10. What's your number one food waste fighting tip?
Chris: Between composting and dog ownership you will never waste food again!

Charlie: Simple, compost. Considering I don't consume animal products or pretty much anything produced, all of our food waste goes into our compost bin at our allotment. That and be conscious of what you buy, don't over buy at the shops, buy what you need and use it up before it goes off.

Get in touch:
Solowood Recycling