Almost ten million tons of furniture is thrown away anually in Europe, despite being in good condition or having potential for repair, re-design or material recycling. Use-and-throw has been considered as "the easiest solution", however many forget that waste management and buying new furniture is both expensive and harmful to the environment. Furniture such as office chairs consists of many components made of plastic and metal, which is difficult to recycle for energy production, and therefor ends up in the landfill. This is a general practice among most building owners, both public and private.
Many are not aware of the fact that re-use is easier and a much more profitable alternative, in addition to the significant savings in waste and CO2 emissions. Re-use of furniture and inventory also generates new workplaces for repair and re-design.
We have contacted one of the companies working with re-design of furniture on an industrial scale in Norway. At Glomma Industrier AS in Årnes, old furniture becomes new for only a third of the price. For instance, they work with upholstering of old office chairs, and give the furniture new life. The chairs consist of mechanical parts made of steel and plastic, and these have long durability. By changing the wheels and re-adjusting the seats, Glomma Industrier can reuse 90% of the material and adapt the design of the chair to the customer's wishes. Glomma Industrier has framework agreements for upholstering furniture with several large companies, such as Telenor.
According to The Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), office chairs have an average carbon footprint of 72 kg CO2. If 90% of all materials can be saved by re-design, this is equal to about 64 kg CO2 per office chair. For example, you can take a small municipality with a thousand employees. By only re-using their office chairs this municipality will be able to save:
> 10.000 kg waste (equal to total annual waste of 24 persons )
> 5 million kr (by re-designing instead of buying new chairs to 8000 kr per chair)
> 50 000 kr (waste fees)
There are approximately 500,000 municipal employees in Norway, distributed over 356 municipalities. There is great potential for re-use of furniture and inventory in Norwegian municipalities. These municipalities have ambitious goals for sustainable development reinforced by the European Green Deal. Most municipalities have goals of being climate neutral by 2030, and re-using furniture can bring them several percent closer to this goal. Re-use is a circular activity that demands few resources, but has a great impact on emissions and economy
The government, with few exceptions, still does not do anything about furniture re-use. Re-use of furniture is not rooted at the top level of management (Chief municipal officer / Rådmann) in Norwegian municipalities, we still come to a dead end.
The goals are set, and new processes and job descriptions must be adapted. We believe that more municipal employees should be given new and exciting tasks related to circular economy. We at GreenStock have worked with several courageous municipalities to create simple, transparent and measurable processes for re-using furniture. Contact our circular economy advisors to learn more about other municipalities' successful approaches to reaching circular goals.