Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Monday, 20 July 2009 10:36 UK
Skip diving away

A full skip in a London street
One person's rubbish is another's treasure trove

By Stephen Burns
BBC London Step Up scheme

With the recession affecting the whole of London, people are looking for new ways to save money. Stephen Burns looks at whether Skip Diving, possibly the modern "Make Do And Mend," could be the answer.

In the age of ecology and recycling skip diving is the act of making someone else's trash into your treasure.

After years of excess the disposable mentality led to an abundance of electrical items being thrown away for no other reason than a newer model is available.

Get in and shift stuff about, the good stuff is often at the bottom
Harry Clarke, businessman

Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that in recent months the amount of electrical goods presented for recycling has dropped by as much as 75%, yet the number of people indulging in the practice of skip diving seems to be on the increase.

Skip diving itself is not a new idea but in the current economic climate it is a means of helping stretch finances by making use of discarded items such as furniture and electrical equipment.

Harry Clarke started Cobalt Telephone Technologies in a portable office in Esher and admitted that he wouldn't have been able to start his business if he had not used furniture and equipment found in skips or bought second hand.

He also feels that during a recession there are more opportunities as more companies cease trading.

Landlords are left with premises full of furniture they have little use for and often consign it to a skip.

Harry said: "West London is unbelievable, the stuff that people throw out."

New lease of life

However, it's not just commercial skips that provide the happiest hunting grounds, many residential skips can be a trove of unloved furniture just waiting for a new lease of life.

It may have been a flat pack wardrobe when it was thrown out but with a bit of ingenuity it could be just the item you were looking for.

Houses undergoing refurbishment, particularly kitchens and bathrooms, can provide useful items such as sinks and cupboards which with a lick of paint and a bit of imagination can transform a living space.

As a student Pete Riley admitted that he never bought a new piece of furniture during his studies and with careful observation managed to remodel his flat from local skips.

Louise Campbell, founder of www.myehive.com, still uses "Hercules" a 1950s' bicycle that was retrieved from a skip.

Far from the idea of a skip diver being an unkempt individual, people from all walks of life are indulging in this pastime.

Get permission

Harry Clarke is proud of the fact that not one piece of furniture in the head office of his company was purchased new with many items coming from skips.

"If I saw a skip with a good piece of timber in it I would pull it out today and I hope tomorrow."

The general advice is to wear old clothes, gloves and ask permission from whoever hired the skip.

"Get in and shift stuff about, the good stuff is often at the bottom," is Harry's advice.

So if it's a new office desk or a new bike then next time you walk past a skip, have a look in. You may be surprised at what you might find.

Step Up is a BBC mentoring project which aims to give people access to and experience within the broadcasting industry.

London: the capital of scrounge?
20 Jul 09 |  People & Places


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific