Scrap That...

Wandsworth Work and Play Scrapstore gets its 'scraps' from Ted Baker and Burberry.

Inside the Scrapstore: Darth Vader made out of food packagingHave you ever looked at a pile of broken picture frames destined for the rubbish bin and wondered whether someone might be able to make use of them? Yesterday I went to see the people who do.

Wandsworth Work and Play Scrapstore collects materials from local industry and invites groups to come and use them. Frequent users are school and playgroups, whose teachers turn up to the Scrapstore in Tooting to find items that can be used for crafts or in a school play. 

Yesterday Gail, a mother at St Michael's school, was making a return visit to pick up some interesting items to use in a set design for a school production. A box of bottle tops would be turned into knobs on a mad scientist's machine, while a length of fabric would be painted and hung up as background scenery, creating his lab.

Marie, a respite and foster carer, visits a couple of times a year to collect colourful card and fabric for the young people she works with. She says craft is a relaxing activity, especially for autistic children, who enjoy the repeated tasks of cutting and sticking.

A visitor to the ScrapstoreThe Scrapstore is not just a collection of odds and ends. Charlotte has worked for the organisation for a year, providing workshops for women's groups, homeless drop-ins, trafficking prevention schemes and psychiatric patients. Her background in art therapy turns the simple idea of an art and craft session into a workshop which enables people to socialise and enjoy time out from their sometimes difficult living situations. She mentions that staff at these organisations may not always spend as much hands-on time with the people they work on behalf of, and therefore also appreciate the opportunity to get involved. 

The Scrapstore has around 18 volunteers, who tend to be ex-trustees and ex-users like Teresa (pictured), who has been involved with the project for 15 years. Their enthusiasm carries over into the displays they create as examples for people to draw inspiration from. You just need to look around to see what inventive uses of some of the materials can be put to.A mannequin found at the Scrapstore

  • Bottle tops and corks become wheels on trucks or knobs on a mad scientist's machine in a school play
  • The National Portrait Gallery sends auction catalogues which are glossy and heavily inked, so not ideal for recycling - but perfect for collages
  • A company which provides foam sheets used by NASA for sound proofing gets snapped up by school costume designers and cut to form stamps
  • Towards the end of a roll of silver card used in cigarette packaging the roll starts to come loose from the machine. Once it's fallen off the end although it still has a couple of metres of card left, it's as good as waste to the manufacturers, who just want to get a fresh ream back on the production line
  • A photographer sends his surplus post cards.
  • 'Glitter waste' from the Kent scrap store which closed down is very popular
  • Want to make an art project with a Ted Baker mannequin? Why not use two - they've got them at the Scrap store!
  • Old coathangers? Bend them into skeleton wings over which you can knit a woolly seagull's body

And all this is collected on weekly trips using a single hybrid vehicle run on gas and petrol. 

Annual membership fees apply to regular users, of which there are about 180 at the moment. The Scrapstore, a voluntary organisation and registered charity, is always keen to attract both new users and donors. For more information visit

PS: Gail will be using the picture frames as a structure on which to hang a set design. 

Inside the Scrapstore

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