The day university student Tom Chance scrapped his car he was not aware that he was inadvertently planting the seed for a future business venture that is not only boosting vehicle recycling but providing much-needed revenue for charities in difficult economic times.

“I needed to get rid of it that day because I was going on holiday,” says the 22 year old. “I got £50, but later I thought there must be such a market for a convenient hassle-free scheme that allows people to get rid of their cars in an easy manner.”

About 18 months ago he decided to test that market, launching Giveacar from his London bedroom. Anyone who wants to dispose of their car can call or email Giveacar to arrange a free collection, countrywide.

Depending on its condition, the car is then either recycled at an authorised treatment facility or, in around 15% of cases, sold at auction. Either way the money goes to a charity of the owner’s choice.

Like all the best ideas, the first reaction is, “How come no one else thought of that?”

“There were so many schemes out there which recycled things for charity – like your phone or batteries – and I thought ‘why is no-one doing this for cars?’ I had a window of opportunity before I started work so I just thought I’d give it a go.”

Setting up the scheme online meant that he needed virtually no start-up investment, he says. “I built a website for a few hundred pounds, made some contacts with charities and scrap yards and from that point forward I just worked with the income I developed from the scheme.”

While the scrap yards were amenable from the beginning, the initial reaction of the charities was one of scepticism, he says.

“People didn’t really understand it. I approached hundreds of charities to say ‘would you allow us to accept donations for you?’ and got responses from about three, which was fair enough because there was no guarantee of revenue at that point, and charities are very protective of their branding.”

However, it is now the charities that approach him, with heavy hitters such as Cancer Research, Oxfam, UNICEF and NSPCC signed up alongside hundreds of others – and he has been able to rent an office and take on two full-time staff.

“We’re now doing hundreds of cars every month and raising tens of thousands of pounds,” he says. “If there hadn’t been any demand in the first month, I would have given it up and tried something else, but once there was some demand I knew that the more I could develop and publicise the scheme, the more demand we’d get. But it’s nice that it’s developed so quickly.”

The scheme takes in between 300 and 400 cars a month from right across the country, donating more than £100 per car on average to charity. Tom says that the scrap ones go for slightly under £100, but the auction ones boost the value. But it is not just cars that are donated.

“We’ve had all sorts of things – airport trolleys, jet skis, lots of mopeds and motorbikes, even a recording studio,” he says. “We recently got a call from a major

FTSE 100 company saying they needed to get rid of a road sweeper, so we went and did it for them.”

It is local authorities that he is particularly keen to work with. Tom says that councils take away vehicles all the time to pounds and get rid of them.

“I know they have contracts in place with other agencies, but if they could give even a small proportion of those cars to the Giveacar scheme – and they could pick the charity – it would be fantastic.”

One potential stumbling block is the size of the contracts, he acknowledges.

“I’ve met with a couple of local authorities who’ve said that because the volumes are quite large I’d have to take everything – cars, caravans, incinerated vehicles, any large object that’s left on their roads.

“We have to be choosy with what we take to generate those guaranteed donations for charity, so we can’t take every single vehicle. If there was a riot and a hundred cars were burned out, for example, we’d have to take every one and be severely out of pocket. We’re not large enough at the moment to take those kinds of risks.”

The scheme has also had to adapt to changes in the sector, such as the Government’s car scrappage scheme and the fluctuating price of scrap metal. But what makes it so exciting is that every day brings something different, he says. “The main thing that’s so rewarding is that you’re making money for good causes.”

In fact, the only thing holding the scheme back seems to be that not enough people know about it. “The more we can build awareness – through garages promoting the scheme when cars fail their MOTs, or big corporate donating cars which get left in their car parks – the better,” he says.

“There are all sorts of vehicles that need to be disposed of in a quick and hassle-free way, and if we can really tap into these resources, the sky’s the limit.”

Dave Gilliver is a freelance journalist

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