Focus On: Building Sustainably with Recipro

by Ifeoluwa Adedeji
22nd October 2014

At Build It, we’re always on the lookout for ways to help self-builders and renovators save money on their projects. So when I met Rebecca Owens from Recipro I was more than eager to hear more about the company that’s trying to improve sustainability within the construction industry while saving their customers money.

Can you tell me what inspired the creation of Recipro?

Our parent company is a contractor, and we developed Recipro because we see the amount of waste produced within the sector as a big problem, particularly the fact that useful products are being thrown into skips. The company is dedicated to reducing the construction industry’s negative environmental impact. We launched the website in October 2008 and it currently has over 8,000 users from around the UK. The first region-specific version, ReciproCity in Wirral, launched December 2011. Cardiff and London-based sites have since followed.

How do you do this?

The website (recipro-uk.com) is designed to help people offer and obtain surplus materials. It’s aimed at self-builders, small developers, construction firms and the general public. We also provide a managed service, where we collect materials from larger sites (as well as from suppliers and merchants) and distribute these products into the community at a discounted price. These items are then sold through our ReciproCity Reuse stores, alongside other offerings from the public.

How does the website work?

It is very easy to use, you simply register online and can then add your surplus materials, as well as search for and enquire about any items you need. Recipro lists members’ unused items, and provides a simple and effective way to exchange, sell and donate materials otherwise destined for the waste stream. We have users from all over the UK and each ReciproCity item is listed on our website. You can also visit your local centre (check online for details of your nearest store) to browse our current stock in person.

Is there a membership charge for joining and using the website?

Signing up and using the website is completely free. The individuals who list their unwanted materials may sometimes charge for them, but often the products are free and they’re certainly available cheaper than you could expect to pay in your local DIY shed. Materials sold through ReciproCity are typically available at just 20-30% of the actual retail price.

Reclaimed stained pine windows and door in a conservatory

What are the most popular items offered on the site?

We’ve had almost everything that you can think of using on a self-build listed online. A lot of bricks and timber get posted, and we see a fair bit of insulation, too. We also find that paints and tiles appear on the site quite often. But with 8,000 people signed up around the UK, plus the three physical ReciproCity sites, we never know what we’ll get from one day to the next.

What types of projects are members generally working on?

We see such a wide range, from small extensions and refurbishments to some of the biggest projects in the country. We ourselves have been involved in some quirky self-builds and community initiatives. One of my personal favourites is a new Viking village being constructed as an educational and tourism attraction, with the aim of using 100% recycled and reused materials. The traditional-style house pictured here was built in Lancashire and uses reclaimed pine and stones found locally. Find out more about John Barnes’ project. 

How do you think self-builders benefit from the services that you offer?

They will be able to save money and reduce waste! We meet a lot of self-builders at events and trade shows, and they often have a keen interest in sustainability. By using Recipro to get rid of their unused materials, they can lower their excess output and carbon emissions, as well as cut disposal costs. When people find and buy via our site they are using materials that would have been taken to a skip otherwise, so it’s an eco-friendly choice (as well as a money-saving exercise). We already have a lot of success stories and case studies on our blog of people who have benefitted from the service and often hear: “Why has no one thought of this before?”

For more details call 0844 225 3000 or visit recipro-uk.com

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