By Penketh Group Insights Team
7th June 2019
Around £9 million per year is spent sending unwanted desks to landfill
That figure is according to sustainable waste reduction charity, WRAP and presents just the tip of the iceberg. While the waste of old or unwanted furniture is quite clearly costing the country’s economy financially, it is also having a huge impact environmentally.
WRAP’s research discovered that approximately 295,000 office chairs are reused in some way or another every year in the UK. While this might seem like a large number, it actually only represents 14% of all end-of-life chairs. A vast amount of the remaining 86% end up in landfill which utilises unnecessary energy and resource, as well as upping carbon emissions.
WRAP estimates that 1 tonne of office chairs reused directly (second-hand or donation) can result in a saving of 3 tonnes of greenhouse gases. That equates to just over 35kg of greenhouse gas for every chair reused rather than wasted.
While figures have improved somewhat over the past few years – and continue to do so – there is still lots to be done to make the commercial furniture and office refurbishment industry more sustainable.
Fortunately, there are many organisations and brands within the industry doing their bit to ‘clean up their act’. Global furniture company, Steelcase being one of them…
Our eco-friendly furniture partner
“Nobody needs an office in a landfill.”
This is the theory behind Steelcase’s forward-thinking Phase 2 Program – formerly known as the Steelcase Environmental Partnership Program. It facilitates the responsible reuse or recycling of old or unwanted furniture in the US and across Europe.
On its ‘Zero Landfill’ mission to become more sustainable and help its customers design and maintain more conscious workspaces, Steelcase supports:
- The placing of furniture items back into service for reuse. This could be a combination of new and existing furniture, or simply rethinking how work settings are used to find new functions for various products.
- Donation of furniture to small businesses, start-ups, schools, medical facilities, charities or not-for-profit organisations which can give old or unwanted furniture a new home.
- The reclamation of fabric and furniture parts to refurbish and reinvent items.
- The resale and pricing of old or unwanted furniture to external buyers.
Steelcase can evaluate an existing furniture inventory to establish which items are eligible for any of the above options. This way, they can help reduce the amount of unnecessary waste going into landfill and add value to workspace design projects.
As Steelcase’s North West partner, this is a service we are able to offer to customers on a project-by-project basis. Simply get in touch to find out more.
The benefits of Phase 2 Program
With so many options now made available by Steelcase’s sustainability mission when it comes to dealing with old or unwanted furniture, the benefits are manifold. Below we summarise just a handful of the main ones for if this is something you might be considering as part of your next workspace design project.
Sustainability and nurturing the environment
Finding new homes for furniture or recycling unwanted product goes a long way towards making the commercial interior design more eco-conscious. Over the course of just two years, Steelcase were able to put more than 11,000 chairs to reuse, which equates to around 240 tonnes of materials that would have otherwise ended up in landfill.
Extending the life of furniture parts and fabric
Refurbishing furniture by updating the fabric and replacing any worn-out parts is a great way to extend its usage lifespan and subsequently, extend investment. Not only is this a wiser way to spend valuable money on office furniture, it’s also an effective tactic in reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfill.
A more cost-effective offices design solution
According to WRAP’s research, businesses are currently benefiting by about £8.2 million per year as a result of purchasing reused desks, as opposed to brand new ones. This goes to show that if more office furniture was placed back into service, refurbished or donated for reuse, the country’s businesses could be saving a whole lot more money.
Looking at it from the perspective of an individual project, if a customer can repurpose existing furniture, acquire donated furniture or buy second-hand furniture then it has the potential to bring the cost of a project right down. This would then free up extra cash to either save or inject into other areas such as updated workplace technology or more complex office fit out elements.