Nathan Way, SE28

WG mentioned this a couple of weeks ago whilst we were talking about Greenwich Freecycle and I was really excited by it, so I thought I’d go and visit and find out what it was like.

Basically, it’s a way of recycling office furniture in which everyone benefits. Greenworks is a charity which clears offices – usually when they have a refit. This is often from banks, blue chip companies and City institutions, but also from hospitals, local government and, more worryingly, central government, many of whose departments redecorate every year.

Once Greenworks have collected the gear, they refurbish it. Most of the kit is hardly used – these companies chuck out some amazing stuff – but anything that’s truly dead gets taken to pieces and its components reused by people, often disadvantaged, who have been trained in refurbishment. The wood gets made into new furniture, the foam used as stuffing for kids toys (it’s all fireproofed, remember) – even the casters are broken up to be used in roadbuilding.

They then sell it. Everything from carpet tiles to desks, filing cabinets to box files. They do all sorts of services including a complete made-to-measure office fit, but they’re just as happy for you to bowl up and have a look around. They especially like not-for-profit companies, but everyone is welcome. It’s particularly good for people setting up a new business as the prices are excellent (and I get the feeling they’ll do deals if you ask very nicely.) The money goes to training the people, paying proper salaries and keeping the company going. Everyone’s a winner.

I had a long chat with the extremely friendly guy and his assistant in the office. He clearly loves his job, and is passionate about recycling. He told me horror stories of government over-spending – for example, he was called out to the Foreign Office to collect an entire consignment of office swivel chairs, but he decided to leave the chairs on the lorry as they were still in their wrappings – he thought he’d made a mistake. It would appear that they weren’t quite the right colour or something similarly trivial and the whole lot had been junked before it was even opened. That’s out taxes, that is. Without Greenworks, the whole lot would have gone into landfill. It’s enough to make you cry. Unsurprisingly, that particular batch sold very quickly…

He tells me it’s a little quiet in the warehouse at the moment as, being the beginning of the new financial year, the government haven’t got around to wasting our money yet, but he reckons that in the next month or so it will start to fill up with hardly-used gear at bargain prices.

I was astounded at what they sell – GIGANTIC boardroom tables and matching chairs, water coolers, magazine display racks, foyer seating – whatever might be in an office, chances are they’ll have it. I noticed some odd-shaped sofas, which had apparently come out of a recording studio. If they don’t you can ask him to call around the other branches in London or even further, and they’ll either bring it over next time they’re coming Greenwich way, or keep a look out for one and let you know when it arrives. And they’re truly friendly people who want to be helpful and enjoy the whole process of recycling and dealing with people.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who needs to kit out a new business – or even just find a filing cabinet for their home office. Oh – and there’s a splendid silver challenge cup there at the moment, which was once Nat West Bank’s Staff Suggestions cup. My suggestion for it would be a great champagne cooler…

Greenworks is A Good Thing. And for that, I’m calling it a Greenwich Phantom Favourite Haunt.

Check it out.

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