Living In A Material World…

Nicola-DaviesNicola Davies of Low and Behold talks about the company’s re-homing and re-use programme, which helps to find homes for materials that would otherwise be thrown away
CIWM Journal Online Exclusive



Low and Behold finds resourceful solutions to environmental problems. Founded in 2006, the company started by creating and selling a product as a tool to educate the public about an environmental issue. Since then, we’ve worked on a number of innovative projects, such as establishing a social enterprise in South London to deal with waste, recycling and healthy living issues. Current projects include managing a Local Government Association (LGA) productivity pilot investigating the impact of food waste disposers. We published what we believe to be the largest literature review on the work of food waste disposers at the end of 2012, which is currently available on the LGA website. We are also in the process of looking at the role of wood waste in household waste recycling centres for the Waste and Resources Action Panel (WRAP).


As well as offering a wide range of hands-on project management and consultancy services, Low and Behold demonstrates best practice through our re-use programme. The re-use project came about as an off-shoot of our first project on Fast Fashion. Back in 2006, Low and Behold sold our own brand organic cotton T-shirts and tops. We attended a number of events, from Bristol Organic Fair to Glastonbury Festival, over the next two years, talking to the public about the social and environmental impacts of cheap clothing and chemical processes in the garment industry. One of the hooks we used for engaging with the public was that we gave them money off a new t-shirt if they brought us an old one for recycling.  One of our branded t-shirts even reinforced this message. As a result, we became a licensed waste carrier and broker with Environment Agency, and have continued to develop this re-use work into corporate wear.


Scrap Stores

Since 2008 we have worked with a number of high street retailers, banks and event companies, to help them find new homes for materials that are no longer needed, such as branded wear. By using a network of charities and educational organisations we can take items that would otherwise go to landfill. In the past we have re-homed t-shirts advertising the publication of the next Harry Potter book from a well-known bookstore chain, swimming goggles left over from fundraising events, surplus t-shirts from marathons and even wooden medals from races. According to WRAP most events only recycle 15 percent of the waste produced – the potential reductions are huge.

Materials that we collect are currently distributed through a network of not-for-profit and education organisations around the UK. We specialise in finding the most suitable home for the materials, including for items that cannot be re-worn because of brand sensitivities.

Recently, we found a new home for over a 100 surplus t-shirts from a recent swimming event. These went to a scrap store in North London, the Children’s SCRAP Project. Scrap stores can take any materials that are not toxic or hazardous and put them to use in education and art projects within communities. They work to promote the use of waste materials and innovation in sustainable resources. The cotton t-shirts are ideal for children to practise printing designs on during workshop events. The centre runs these workshops to provide them with guided opportunities to explore their creative outputs using otherwise unwanted materials. The workshops run with local schools and community groups to get the best out of any available resource.

Making Better Decisions

The Children’s Scrap Project is just one of our many recipient projects. These t-shirts supplied were all unworn, as is often the case. We aim to work with our partner event companies to let them know the quantities of unworn items so that they can make better purchasing decisions in the future. We aim to develop this area of the business so that better purchasing decisions also includes the quality and environmental impacts of the items they buy.


The Pyramid Resource Centre in Essex is another project and it provides a range of resources to parents and carers, community groups and care homes for the elderly. Free play and craft days are held for children at the centre throughout the year using scrap material provided to them. When signed up, members can enter the scrap store as often as needed to pick up a bags worth of scrap that can be used in a variety of projects. Materials are distributed around schools in the local area, they are taken to community events and they are also used to create bunting on site to order. On site they work to make the most of any material provided to them, the items can be split up and further cut up to be separated into easy to use packs of creative materials ideal for children, for example packs of material suitable for collage projects.

Any material can be used in arts and crafts if you have the creative spark. The Source, a scrap store located in Edmonton London has in the past held gallery events to showcase the creative works that have been produced using scrap material. Exhibits on display included recycled jewellery made from sweet wrappers and old maps, furniture made from paper rolling sticks, dresses made from rubber gloves and surplus paper. Fun activity based workshops can be catered for using recycled materials to encourage sustainability.  Even medical items can be used in art and crafts with rubber gloves, plastic piping and face mask all being put to good use.

These are just some of the examples of local community groups that have benefitted from otherwise unwanted items in the last year. We are actively working at the moment to build our network of not-for-profit and educational organisations, so if you know of anyone who would be able to put a range of unusual and unwanted items to good use, then do get in touch.


This article is a CIWM Journal Online exclusive and is similar to what you will find every month in the CIWM Journal. To receive this and have access to the archive, you must be a member. Click here to apply for membership now.


Send this to a friend