Our story

Community Wood Recycling has developed into the country’s leading social and environmental social enterprise network

How it started

Founder Richard Mehmed first realised the potential of waste wood in 1998 when he was building a playhouse for his daughter. He spotted some ideal wooden sheets piled outside a local factory, and when he asked if he could take a couple of them for his playhouse he was shocked to find the pile was just a fraction of the excess wooden packaging they had waiting to be incinerated. Richard came up with a plan to cycle more wood out of the waste stream, and the Brighton and Hove Wood Recycling Project was born.

Since then

Thanks to the success of the Brighton project, funding was secured to franchise the model elsewhere and the National Community Wood Recycling Project was founded in 2003. The National Builders Collection Scheme was set up to market the service to building companies in 2010, allowing the NCWRP to become self-funding and offer support to enterprises without the need for grants or fundraising. There are currently 30 enterprises operating across the country, collectively forming Community Wood Recycling and collecting around 20,000 tonnes of wood every year.

Explore our Network of Social Enterprises

Our Wood Recycling network creates sustainable jobs

The work we do creates jobs, training and volunteering opportunities for local people, particularly those who might find it difficult to get into or back to employment or who have been excluded from the workforce. We work with former offenders, those with mental health problems, people in recovery from addiction and young people who have never had a job.

Find out how we support volunteers

We are committed to the re-use of waste timber

We believe that there is a better alternative than the chipper for the 4.5 million tonnes of waste wood the country creates every year. By sorting the timber for reuse we are working with commercial partners and local communities to build a circular economy.

Find out how we help the environment

Our Journey

1998

Richard Mehmed sets up the country’s first community wood recycling project in Brighton

Richard Mehmed sets up the country’s first community wood recycling project in Brighton

At a time when only 2% of waste wood is being recycled (with the rest ending up in landfill producing the potent greenhouse gas methane), Richard Mehmed founds Brighton and Hove Wood Recycling Project (later to be known as The Woodstore), the country’s first community wood recycling social enterprise. The project quickly attracts media attention, and more volunteers become involved.

Richard realises that many of them have faced challenges and that volunteering in a community wood recycling project can be a path back to work and self-confidence. This leads to the second part of the recycling project’s mission – to give opportunities to disadvantaged people and help them back into employment.

2003

National Community Wood Recycling Project founded

National Community Wood Recycling Project founded

Brighton and Hove Wood Recycling Project wins the newly inaugurated National Social Enterprise of the Year Award. Interest in this new model grows, and Richard is contacted by people all over the country wanting to set up similar projects. With funding from WRAP and the Esmee Fairburn Foundation, he launches the National Community Wood Recycling Project (NCWRP) to franchise the model nationwide.

2004

The first franchised enterprise, Bristol Wood Recycling Project, opens

The first franchised enterprise, Bristol Wood Recycling Project, opens

The model pioneered in Brighton finds a home in Bristol. Meanwhile at the national office Operating Guides and Training Modules are developed to ensure that the lessons learned from the Brighton enterprise are passed on.

2005

Reseiclo Community Wood Recycling opens

Reseiclo Community Wood Recycling opens

Reseiclo Wood Recycling becomes the first community wood recycling enterprise in Wales, trading from Newport near Cardiff.

Wiltshire Wood Recycling opens

Wiltshire Wood Recycling opens

The wood recycling model finds a home in the countryside, when a former milking shed near the Castle Coombe racing circuit is transformed into a home for reclaimed timber.

Oxford Wood Recycling opens

Oxford Wood Recycling opens

Serving the Oxford area, the project soon outgrows their initial premises and moves to Abingdon, where they continue to work with volunteers and champion the therapeutic powers of working with wood.

Woodhouse Recycling Project opens

Woodhouse Recycling Project opens

The Woodhouse opens in Preston, an initiative by local charity Integrate. Supporting adults with learning disabilities, it provides training, employment and importantly allows them to live their life to the full in their local community.

2006

Wood@Aldingbourne opens

Wood@Aldingbourne opens

The Aldingbourne Trust adds a Community Wood Recycling service to their family of social businesses at the scenic Aldingbourne Country Centre, as part of their mission to provide opportunities for people with autism or learning disability.

Somerset Wood Recycling opens

Somerset Wood Recycling opens

Serving the town of Weston Super Mare, from the outset, the project offers work-based training to local people whose face challenges in their lives. Many early volunteers go on to become long term members of staff.

2007

Mid-Sussex Wood Recycling Project opens

Mid-Sussex Wood Recycling Project opens

Based in the countryside near Haywards Heath, the project promotes volunteering with wood in an outdoor setting to local groups including people with learning difficulties.

Glasgow Wood Recycling opens

Glasgow Wood Recycling opens

Community Wood Recycling finds its first home in Scotland. Located on the North bank of the River Clyde on land once occupied by the Swan Hunter shipyard, the project soon develops the strong sense of community and purpose that brings everyone together, and makes it a special place.

2008

Woods Forever (now trading as Riverside Timber Recycling Project) opens

Woods Forever (now trading as Riverside Timber Recycling Project) opens

This Essex-based project provides wood waste collections in London from their home by the River Rodding in Essex.

St Albans Wood Recycling opens

St Albans Wood Recycling opens

St Albans Wood Recycling goes on to become one of the network’s largest wood collectors, collecting around 2,000 tonnes of wood from north London building projects each year.

2009

NCWRP is part of the Green Jobs Consortium

The Green Jobs Consortium is a consortium of social enterprises in the environmental sector delivering funded jobs for 18-24 year olds with training and support into long term employment via the Future Jobs Fund.

Chiltern Wood Recycling opens

Chiltern Wood Recycling opens

The project is based in High Wycombe, famous for its history of wooden chair making

2010

Launch of the National Builders Collection Scheme

To provide a comprehensive national waste wood service to the country’s top builders, the NCWRP launches the National Builders Collection Scheme. 108 tonnes of wood are collected in the first month.

We introduce detailed environmental reports to our collection clients

We introduce detailed environmental reports to our collection clients

In response to increasing standards for environmental and waste safeguards amongst our clients, we start producing reports showing not only the quantity of waste collected from each site but what it was used for.

The NCWRP comes out top on the SE100 ‘fastest growing’ index

The NCWRP comes out top on the SE100 ‘fastest growing’ index

As well as topping the recently compiled RBS SE100 (now NatWest SE100) fastest growing social enterprise index, we are also narrowly pipped to the post of being named the inaugural RBS SE100 growth champion at a prestigious awards ceremony in London.

2011

Jericho Wood Shack opens

Jericho Wood Shack opens

JERICHO is a charity offering work and training opportunities to people in the Birmingham area struggling with issues including homelessness, mental ill health, addiction, disability, modern slavery, and social exclusion through a range of social businesses, such as building, laundry, cleaning, refurbishment, catering, and of course community wood recycling via The Wood Shack.

DEFRA Minister Lord Henley visits the Brighton Woodstore

DEFRA Minister Lord Henley visits Brighton to find out how we work with builders to reduce and reuse construction waste.

NCWRP featured in Permaculture magazine

NCWRP featured in Permaculture magazine

The NCWRP’s work is covered in a three page spread in the Summer edition of Permaculture Magazine. The feature leads to calls from several potential new entrepreneurs who are interested in setting up community wood recycling enterprises in their areas.

Richard Mehmed is interviewed by Al Jazeera about his work to build up the network

Richard Mehmed is interviewed by Al Jazeera about his work to build up the network

NCWRP’s Richard Mehmed is interviewed by the international news organisation Al Jazeera at the Brighton Woodstore as part of a new ecology news segment for their English language broadcasting, broadcast in June to their viewership of over 200 million.

Roots Timber Reuse opens

Roots Timber Reuse opens

Serving the Medway towns and north Kent, the team at Roots work closely with the local community, from making planters to giving opportunities to people with learning disabilities.

2012

EMERGE Touch Wood opens

EMERGE Touch Wood opens

EMERGE 3Rs operates several recycling and reuse projects in Greater Manchester, including the Touch Wood community wood recycling enterprise and the FareShare community food partnership.

East Midlands Wood Recycling opens

East Midlands Wood Recycling opens

Based in Derby, they build up a reputation for products, from tables to mud kitchens.

2013

Celebration of 10 years of the Community Wood Recycling Network with Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP

Celebration of 10 years of the Community Wood Recycling Network with Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP

The network comes together to celebrate our tenth birthday, and our local MP is guest of honour

Southampton Wood Recycling opens

Southampton Wood Recycling opens

The founders of the project are avid sailors, sailing mainly traditional gaff rigged boats. While searching for timber for winter maintenance of one of these boats, they find out about community wood recycling and are inspired to set up a project in Southampton.

Just Wood Leicestershire opens

Just Wood Leicestershire opens

This is the first project in our network to be led and run by an all female team.

2014

We take the name Community Wood Recycling

We take the name Community Wood Recycling

The National Community Wood Recycling Project bands together with the local enterprises it helped create and foster to form Community Wood Recycling, a recycling network with the goal of providing collection coverage and wood supply across the country using the community wood recycling model.

Humber Wood Recycling Project opens

Humber Wood Recycling Project opens

Our Hull-based wood recyclers serve the Humber region, and have gone on to become part of the Dove House Hospice family, reclaiming timber to support a vital community service.

Newcastle Wood Recycling opens

Newcastle Wood Recycling opens

A former council depot in the Walker area is given new life as a sustainable, vibrant space which brings together the local community.

2015

Playhouse made by Just Wood featured on ITV’s Love Your Garden

Playhouse made by Just Wood featured on ITV’s Love Your Garden

A teepee playhouse designed and built from reclaimed wood by Just Wood Leicestershire is part of the garden makeover on the ITV television programme ‘Love Your Garden’ starring Alan Titchmarsh.

Community Wood Recycling model introduced at the European Social Firms Conference

At the 28th Social Firms Europe CEFEC Annual Conference in Switzerland, Richard Mehmed presents the Community Wood Recycling model and urges European social entrepreneurs to develop similar ways of tackling wood waste in their countries.

2016

North Essex Wood Recycling opens

North Essex Wood Recycling opens

The Community Wood Recycling model gives one of the employees at our South London enterprise the chance to start his own social enterprise.

Richard Mehmed presented to HRH Anne, Princess Royal

Richard Mehmed presented to HRH Anne, Princess Royal

To commemorate our long term partners Wates being awarded The Queens Award for Enterprise (Sustainable Development), Community Wood Recycling Founder and Managing Director Richard Mehmed is presented to Her Royal Highness Anne, Princess Royal, and gives her a collection of Christmas decorations made by Humber Wood Recycling and Brighton and Hove Wood Recycling from wood collected from Wates sites.

Community Wood Recycling receives Constructionline Silver accreditation

Community Wood Recycling receives Constructionline Silver accreditation

This certifies our conformity with the PAS 91 standard for construction procurement.

2017

Northamptonshire Wood Recycling opens

Northamptonshire Wood Recycling opens

They quickly develop a loyal following of fans of their reclaimed timber on social media.

We join the SEUK Buy Social Corporate Challenge

We join the SEUK Buy Social Corporate Challenge

A group of high-profile businesses aim to collectively spend £1 billion with social enterprises through their procurement, creating The Buy Social Corporate Challenge, led by Social Enterprise UK in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Community Wood Recycling is a key social enterprise partner for several top builders.

2018

Richard Mehmed voted onto the Executive Committee of Social Firms Europe

Richard Mehmed voted onto the Executive Committee of Social Firms Europe

Richard’s appointment shows international recognition of Community Wood Recycling as an exemplar of social enterprise, as well as demonstrating his commitment to disseminating any lessons learned for the betterment of social business across Europe.

Wood Saints opens

Wood Saints opens

The All Saints Action Network, working to regenerate a disadvantaged area of Wolverhampton, chooses wood recycling as a means of delivering change through social enterprise.  They name their new project Wood Saints.

New Life Wood opens

New Life Wood opens

This Basildon based project addresses the barriers to people moving out of poverty by offering training, mentoring and life and money management skills.

Leeds Wood Recycling opens

Leeds Wood Recycling opens

They quickly win praise for their initiatives to combat loneliness and isolation through bringing people together to work with wood.

Solo Wood Recycling opens

Solo Wood Recycling opens

From their Croydon base Solo Wood Recycling become involved in a range of projects from building timber structures for a show garden at the Hampden Court Flower Show to working with local school children.

2019

Move On Wood Recycling opens

Move On Wood Recycling opens

Our second project in Scotland brings wood recycling to the nation’s capital with support from Zero Waste Scotland, and new opportunities for the clients of leading charity Move On Scotland.

The Useful Wood Company opens

The Useful Wood Company opens

A Woking-based group seeking to tackle financial exclusion and joblessness turn a former Jobcentre into an Aladdin’s cave of reclaimed timber.

2020

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit EMERGE

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit EMERGE

While visiting EMERGE to recognise the Manchester-based social enterprise’s work supplying food to local people during the coronavirus crisis, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are presented with a herb planter made by our wood recyclers

2021

We go paperless and introduce electronic waste transfer notes across the network

We go paperless and introduce electronic waste transfer notes across the network

To stay at the forefront of high-efficiency, low-waste recycling, Community Wood Recycling develops a Waste Transfer Note management app that lets our collectors log transfers as they take place.

Community Wood Recycling achieves Constructionline Gold accreditation

Community Wood Recycling achieves Constructionline Gold accreditation

Silver Constructionline membership ensures our conformity with the PAS 91 standard for safety in procurement.