Businesses that are refurbishing or moving offices are being told to reconsider throwing away old office furniture in the rush to modernise, in light of the European Commission’s new Circular Economy Action Plan.
According to the action plan, up to 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design phase. The usual linear pattern of “take-make-use-dispose” does not provide producers with sufficient incentives to make their products more circular.
Many products break down too quickly, cannot be easily reused, repaired or recycled, and many are made for single use only.
Office desks and chairs, for instance, have been a big burden on the environment for many years – often ending up in a landfill.
Businesses choose to replace their furniture and IT equipment with bigger, smaller or higher spec models, even when they are perfectly usable.
Now, however, there is another option as office refit companies begin to offer more sustainable alternatives which fit into a circular economy model.
Resources should be used, recovered and regenerated
“And what we are seeing is that it’s not just major corporations that are engaging with us, it’s the start-up businesses who want to know what they can do and how they can benefit society. People are looking for a more sustainable solution.” –Phil Oram, Regional Director, Crown Workspace
Phil Oram, Regional Director at Crown Workspace, which refurbishes and repurposes office furniture for clients at its innovative Renew Centre in London, believes it’s time to change.
He said: “We can’t continue to throw everything away. We were brought up uneducated about sustainability and it’s our children and social media that are starting to educate us that we must change.
“Remanufacturing office furniture just makes sense, not just ethically but financially, too.
“There is a 70 per cent cost saving against new. So, it’s not always the expensive option to do the right thing.”
Millions of tonnes of office furniture goes to landfill
Approximately 1.2 million ofﬁce desks and 1.8 million ofﬁce chairs end up in UK landﬁll each year according to Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) whose last figures were produced in 2011.
Meanwhile, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates 2 million tonnes of Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), including IT and telecommunications equipment, are thrown out in the UK annually.
Crown Workspace remanufactured 7750 items of office furniture in 2018-19, which meant 474 tonnes of CO2 were saved and 218 tonnes of waste was diverted from landfill.
“Sustainability is vital for businesses going forward”, Oram said. “They want to be seen to be doing the right thing - by their customers and by their staff. We cannot continue to operate the way we have for the past 40 years.”
“There’s certainly a shift in the agenda these days. Businesses that we’re talking to about sustainability are interested in the topic.
“And what we are seeing is that it’s not just major corporations that are engaging with us, it’s the start-up businesses who want to know what they can do and how they can benefit society. People are looking for a more sustainable solution.”