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Office Furniture and the Environment: How to Turn Trash Into Treasure

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Office Furniture and the Environment: How to Turn Trash Into Treasure

Furnishing an office space is an expensive and complicated process, and choosing to buy used furniture is a popular way to cut costs and turnaround time. But many office managers might not be considering how much they’re helping out the environment — in addition to their bottom line — by deciding to buy used. To further help out the planet, companies should consider disposing of their old furniture in a sustainable way.

What happens to the old furniture when an office is refurbished? The answer is just what you might think: it usually ends up in a landfill. In fact, according to the EPA, three million tons of usable office furniture finds their way into landfills every year.

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There’s nothing wrong with deciding that it’s time for an upgrade to your office space. New furniture is often required to keep up with changing technological needs or a change in organization. Plus, a fresh-feeling, thoughtfully designed work environment can help motivate employees and bump up productivity. The problem is when the new furniture is brought in, there’s no plan for what to do with the old — and so it gets thrown in the dump.

How to Avoid the Landfill

For this reason, it’s essential to work with a full-service furniture dealership that has experience with handling used furniture. The right company will collect your old furniture, inspect it, and, if it’s still in good condition, refurbish it and give it a new life.

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Even if your former furnishings aren’t able to be resold, the right dealership will ensure that they’re disposed of in a way that mitigates environmental impact as much as possible. They could even be donated to a charitable organization or non-profit, supporting a good cause while also helping out the earth. Recycling is also an option. Many of the materials used in office furniture are fully recyclable! Even better, recycling rebates are available that could help you recoup the costs of the furniture removal.

You might be surprised by the condition of the desks, chairs, shelving, and tables that are thrown away. In many cases, the decision to refurnish an office has nothing to do with the state of the current furniture. There are many situations that often lead to office furniture being discarded long before its usability has diminished.

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Reducing Furniture’s Footprint

Several studies have been conducted to take a look at the problem of office furniture’s impact on the environment and identify steps we can take to minimize it. One study conducted by the Staples Sustainable Innovation Lab and the Rochester Institute of Technology found a number of issues with sustainably retiring old furniture items. The biggest hurdle right now is that it’s not very easy to recycle office furniture as it’s currently being produced.

When a piece of furniture is being built — a desk chair, for example — it’s manufactured using a range of materials like metal, PVC, plywood and foam. Most of these materials can be recycled, but in order to do so, they must be separated. It’s the same reason that most of us separate our plastic trash from glass items and cardboard on garbage day. But of course, easy separation of a chair’s pieces is actively avoided during production; the various pieces of a chair are constructed to stay together, not to come apart. Forward-thinking furniture manufacturers are now faced with the conundrum of how to build pieces that hold together for the length of their life span, but then can easily be disassembled into their collective material components for simple recycling.

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Good for the Earth — and Your Budget

Until manufacturers figure out how to build desks, chairs, shelving and tables that are as easy to separate and recycle as your household waste, the best option is still to extend the life of furniture as much as we possibly can.

That’s why used office furniture is becoming big business. Manufacturing companies can reupholster, repaint and repair old pieces to make them good as new — you’d never even know the difference! Buying used office furniture is becoming more and more popular as companies see the high-quality product and recognize the clear environmental and financial benefits to purchasing pre-owned.

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If your company is considering refreshing the office environment with new furniture — or if you’re part of a startup looking to furnish its first workspace — find an office furniture dealership that will help you understand all the available options and make the most Earth-friendly choices!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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