One person’s trash might be another’s treasure, but sadly it’s not really socially acceptable (or, er, legal) to trawl through your neighbours’ rubbish in search of hidden gems. The good news is many local tips now do this for you, with ‘reuse’ shops springing up at rubbish dumps around the country.
Of course, as with charity shops, the stuff you’ll find is a mixed bag. But as reuse shops tend to be little known and want to shift stock fast to save more from landfill, you can find real bargains – eg, we’ve seen £25 flat-screen TVs, £10 microwaves and £5 vacuum cleaners. Some items are even brand-new and still in packaging (eg, hairdryers), especially around Christmas when people get rid of unwanted presents.
Here’s a quick rundown of how rubbish tip shops work, what you can find and a map to help you find your nearest.
How rubbish tip shops work
They can be found at waste recycling centres across the country and are run by local councils or charities or sometimes local businesses operating on their behalf.
Although they’re right next to the dump, they essentially operate like normal shops. Those we’ve spoken to take credit and debit cards, though you’ll need to check, and some have a minimum spend of about £5. You should be able to ask for a receipt when buying something, and while the items you’re buying are second-hand, your normal consumer rights apply.
Larger items, especially electricals, can be real bargains
Rubbish tip shops usually stock typical charity-shop items such as books, toys, clothes and bric-a-brac. But where they can really win is with larger items, especially electricals and furniture. Smaller charity shops don’t always accept these or have the space to store them (and safety-testing electrical items can be tricky too). So bargains you might find include TVs, washing machines, bikes, sofas and lawnmowers.
Each shop sets its own prices. We asked a few for examples of what they sell – here’s what they told us (though of course you may not find these exact items)…
- Flat-screen TVs – £25-£60 (incl a 26-inch Samsung TV for £35)
- Top-of-the-range racing push-bikes- £30-£40
- Ordinary road push-bikes- £10-£20
- Kids’ bikes – £5-10
- Microwaves – £10
- Dyson vacuum cleaners – £10
- Ordinary vacuum cleaners – £5
Age UK Warwickshire, which runs eight reuse shops across the county, told us it regularly saves modern, flat-screen TVs from the tip, as well as quality racing push-bikes – though it’s worth noting bikes sold in reuse shops are likely to need some fixing up before they’re roadworthy.
In the past, one shop even received a nearly new, matching M&S furniture set (sofa, armchair and footstool), which it calculated was worth around £1,800, but sold for £200. Meanwhile Cannock Reuse Store told us it currently has a 26-inch Samsung TV on sale for £35.
Your protection and rights
Here’s a quick rundown of the protection you get…
- All electrical items SHOULD be working and safety-tested. But it’s worth checking with staff at your local shop to be on the safe side. As an example, Swansea Council says its reuse shop has a “whole department just for electrical items where you will find everything from lamps to televisions, all of which have been tested for safety”.
- Some items may even come with a guarantee. Some stores do this, but not all, so check before you buy. For example, Blackpool Council says its shop sells white goods, including dishwashers, tumble dryers and refurbished washing machines. All its large appliances come with a three- or six-month guarantee.
- Your normal consumer rights will usually apply. Just because you’re buying second-hand, doesn’t mean your rights are second-rate. The exception though is when you’re told about specific problems with an item before you buy it – see Second-hand consumer rights for more.
The money normally goes to charity or the community
Each council decides where the money raised from its shop will go. It tends to be to charity or community projects – for example, Swansea Council puts the cash towards educational projects run by its recycling team, while Age UK Warwickshire’s reuse shops give a third of proceeds to the council to help with its recycling budget, and the rest goes to the charity.
In a few cases though, rubbish tip shops may be operated by a local business. You’re still likely to find bargains there, but if you’re concerned about where your money’s going, check.
Where to find your nearest rubbish tip shop
This is the tricky bit – because they’re little publicised and springing up all over the place, we haven’t been able to find a single list of rubbish tip shops.
So instead, we’ve put together this interactive map showing some of the waste recycling centres we know have these shops – please let us know in the comments below or in the forum if you spot any that we’ve missed. We haven’t found any in Scotland or Northern Ireland, so do tell us if you find one there. And let us know if you bag any bargains in your local shop.
Although we’ve tried to make this as accurate as possible, it’s worth noting not all reuse shops or recycling centres are officially marked on Google Maps. We’ve added markers using the addresses given on council websites, but if you’re unsure, it’s worth calling ahead or checking your council’s website before you visit.
Free paint for community groups
Many council tips also work with Community Repaint schemes, which collect and redistribute unwanted, leftover paint. The aim is to improve the appearance of places across the UK, eg, community centres, football changing rooms, and Brownies or Scout halls. If you belong to a similar group, check with your council whether you’re eligible to receive free or cheap paint via this scheme.
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