In Britain we throw away around 300,000 tonnes of recyclable and reusable furniture annually.
To put that in perspective, furniture equates to almost half of all ‘bulky waste’ collected kerbside or sent directly to landfill and since half of all furniture is recyclable this quantity of annually discarded furniture is astonishing. There could be a number of reasons for this, namely that furniture is composed of recyclable and non-recyclable components, which can require time, effort and skills to divide. Another is that transporting sizable furniture to recycling centres is difficult and to hire someone to do it for you can be pricey. There is also the issue that poorly designed furniture deteriorates or breaks quickly, requiring it to be thrown away and replaced regularly.
While cheap furniture manufacturers have to keep their bottom lines at the forefront of their minds, it can no longer be ignored that inferior products and their contribution to our throwaway culture have led to a massive increase in the amount of furniture we send to landfill. The silverlining in this unfortunately grey cloud however is that the sheer amount of waste furniture being produced in the UK has spawned a movement of people determined to promote and facilitate the recycling of old furniture.
There are a number of eco-friendly alternatives to landfill when deciding what to do with unwanted furniture. These solutions will increase the item’s lifespan or, if it is beyond repair, dispose of the furniture in a much more environmentally friendly way.
Donating Furniture to Charity Shops
One of the most popular ways of recycling furniture is through charity shops. Traditionally associated with the reselling of clothes and books, charity shops specifically for furniture are becoming more commonplace. One of the most widespread examples across the UK is the British Heart Foundation’s furniture and electrical store, based on the model that all funds from sales go towards the running of the charity. Others include:
It’s estimated that charity shops divert a total of 29 tonnes of household waste from landfill each year either by selling them in the shop, or by passing the items on to third party retailers. This saves a remarkable total of £28m in landfill tax annually. Donating your old sofa or cabinet to charity is possibly the most sustainably-viable and cost-effective means of recycling furniture, especially as most shops will even come and collect your items for free.
Recycling websites: Freecycle
Charity shops are not the only way to give your second hand furniture a new life. There are plenty of not-for-profit online platforms for keeping furniture out of landfill. Freecycle is a website which puts people looking for used furniture in touch with those giving it away. Setting up a profile and a photographed listing takes around ten minutes. This is a particularly popular option in urban areas where the selection is greater and within close proximity. Moreover, it is down to the receiver to come and collect it.
Should you not manage to offload your items on Freecycle, there are a number of other options based on similar models, including:
Upcycling: Repurposing Old Furniture
When considering sustainable furniture disposal, as with the above examples, it is important to bear in mind that something which no longer has use for you, might well (with a bit of creative modifying) be exactly what another person is looking for. This solution takes this concept the next level by ‘upcycling’ old furniture to make it more appealing to a buyer. It involves no small measure of creativity, and when done well, will increase the value of your items should you wish to sell them.
There are a plethora of sustainably sourced textiles and building materials to use when upcycling to help reduce your item’s carbon footprint and the internet is full of inspirational tips and techniques. You can find these under the hashtag ‘#upcyclefurniture’ on Instagram and Pinterest:
Donating to an Independent Business
Some old furniture should be dumped but many pieces weather well and carry a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about it. Whether it’s a well loved sofa, or a water marked coffee table, it will have the lived-in authenticity that has become synonymous with the ‘hipster movement’ of the last decade. We are all familiar with the deliberately classic, rustic interiors of even the most recently opened coffee shops. If you are looking to dispose of a furniture item locally, then why not visit a nearby business and show them a picture of your item. Similarly, theatres are always on the lookout for used furniture for props.
Eco-friendly Rubbish Collection Service
If you are short of time and are willing to pay to have your furniture removed sustainably and with ease, there are a number of independent eco rubbish removal companies dotted around the UK. They will collect your items and take them to a local recycling centre, either to be broken down, repurposed or resold. Collection price depends on the number of items, their size and the distance the couriers need to travel, but often they will give you a no-obligation quote before you commit.
Although this certainly is the most convenient sustainable furniture disposal solution, the downside is that it is more costly than giving items away to a business or a local charity shop. Nevertheless, it is still reducing the cost to the environment – which is the most important thing here.
Here are some examples of eco rubbish removal companies:
With all of these solutions to hand, furniture disposal certainly shouldn’t be harming our environment nearly as much as it currently is. When deciding what to do with unwanted furniture it is important to consider that the unusable rubbish you want rid of can, sometimes with a little tweaking, become someone else’s treasure. To return to the statistic mentioned in the beginning, half of all furniture we put in landfill is recyclable despite the fact that the UK has the facilities to deal with furniture sustainably. Moreover, eco-friendly furniture removal options are often the most convenient, cost effective, and sustainable.
Morfus modular furniture is made with sustainability and durability at the heart. Responsibly sourced and manufactured, each piece is designed to last a lifetime.