How do I legally dispose of my old office furniture?
Ditching those old desks, chairs and tables without compromising your company’s environmental credentials, is a challenge for any Facilities Manager.
If you’re relocating or refurbishing your office, one of the key considerations is what to do with all your outdated furniture: those old office chairs with fraying upholstery, scuffed desks that have seen better days and filing cabinets that, thanks to your virtual office environment, haven’t been used since 2005.
The tempting option with any office clear-out is to chuck everything and be done with it. But even if you don’t have a robust CSR policy and your Environmental Officer doesn’t raise an eyebrow, modern legislation means that, for your unwanted furniture, ethical disposal is an obligation, not an option.
The EU Waste Framework Directive and England and Wales Waste Regulations require that businesses adhere to the‘waste hierarchy’, which ranks 5 waste management options to consider before sending furniture to landfill. If waste cannot be prevented, it gives priority to preparing it for re-use, then recycling, recovery, then, only if all else fails, disposal.
This directive exists not only because it promotes what’s best for the environment but:
- Helps businesses to keep the growing demand for materials in check
- In turn keeps the cost of these materials to a minimum
Following the hierarchy can also have a direct, positive impact on your business, as any environmentally-sound activity can be communicated to stakeholders as part of your wider CSR reporting, which places trust in your organisation as one that promotes and carries out ethical practice.
So how can companies ensure they adhere to this legislation when clearing out office furniture?
Let’s look at each stage of the hierarchy in turn:
Preventing your furniture from becoming waste can be achieved either through selling it to a third party or donating it to a local charity.
Furniture dealers will typically pay for second hand furniture and resell it in their networks, meaning you canbenefit from the sale.
Should your furniture be slightly warn but still useable, your goods can be donated to a charity, used in a community project or donated to a local school. The advantage to you is the association your company with whichever charity you choose, which can be communicated to your customers as a CSR activity.
Preparing for re-use
New office furniture is expensive, and not always a viable option alongside all the other costs associated with downsizing, relocating or refurbishing. If your current furnishings are not fit for purpose but you’re on a tight budget, remodelling extends the lifecycle of your current furniture, preventing both physical and monetary waste.
Furniture is remodelled to exact specifications, meaning it can be tailored to meet your new office aestheticand the evolving needs of your business. Whether you need smaller desks to fit your growing workforce, or a curvy boardroom table to match your sleek new interiors, remodelling can transform tired old furniture into good-as-new fixtures and fittings that work for your office environment.
Remodelled furniture also typically comes with a warranty, giving you the assurance of longevity in its extended lifecycle.
Fully exhausted furniture can be broken down into component parts (wood, metal, plastics, fabrics) and recycled. These raw materials become valuable commodities, which can be made into new products. This is a great option if you want to demonstrate your CSR credentials to your stakeholders as part of a focus on sustainability.
If some of your furniture is made of mixed or non-recyclable materials (such as certain types of plastics or glass), there’s one option left before wasteful disposal: incineration. This may not sound like an environmentally friendly option, but incineration is a method of recovering energy from end-of-life items. The process converts waste material into gases, particles and heat, which are later used for the generation of electricity.
Incineration is a great option for furniture that cannot be repurposed. The process reduces the mass of waste by around 95%, greatly diminishing the quantity of material that ends up in landfill.
With all the above options available depending on the state of your furniture, there’s really no need to resort to landfill (aside from the tiny quantity of waste produced by incineration).
As we’ve seen there are a lot of choices within the hierarchy, depending on the type and condition of the items you need to dispose of. Ethical recycling and reuse can be time consuming for busy Facilities Managers, but a specialist company can assess your disposal requirements and make recommendations to meet those needs quickly and within the law.
Pickfords Business Solutions
If you are planning a workplace change project or office relocation and are confronted with the challenge of lawful, ethical disposal, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07876 833544. I’m happy to provide a free assessment of your recycling requirements.