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Creating Value from Waste Furniture

Author : Jamie Harbour, Rype Office

15 March 2019

Traditionally, one of three things happens to office furniture at the end of its first life:

1. Reuse: despite visible wear and tear, it is reused, often in a less visible part of the office

2. Storage: it is placed into storage, incurring costs, hoping that it will be found and redeployed

3. Landfill: WRAP estimates that 300 tonnes of commercial furniture are sent to landfill every working day in the UK.

Increasing Costs

While reuse is on the increase, storage and landfilling are becoming substantially more expensive.

There has been a 76.7% drop in the UK’s available warehouse space since 2009, which, combined with increasing property prices, is driving up the cost of storage.

The rising Landfill Tax is making disposal an increasingly expensive option, with internal resistance to this option increasing through zero waste to landfill targets.

Remanufacturing: an Affordable Alternative

The cost-effective and environmentally-conscious response to waste furniture adopted by an increasing number of cost-conscious organisations, ranging from large corporates like RBS, to commercial property manages such as JLL and public sector organisations such as Public Health Wales (an NHS Trust), is remanufacturing.

Remanufacturing means taking the long-life elements of a furniture item (like a steel frame), checking and resurfacing it, and then rebuilding the item around these elements to the original design and specification.

It is an engineering process with rigorous quality control.

The resulting furniture looks and performs as-new but with a range of benefits, including cost savings.

Remanufacturing provides a number of options for organisations’ unwanted furniture:

• Remaufacturers can take away good quality unwanted furniture at no cost, saving on landfill and transport fees – a lower cost and more environmentally friendly disposal method than sending to landfill

• Some remanufacturers offer to hold unwanted furniture and remanufacture it as needed to replace furniture in existing offices or use in new offices or office expansions.

• Leading remanufacturers design new offices for clients that integrate their remanufactured furniture to create beautiful, productive and healthy spaces at around half the cost of using furniture from virgin resources.

• Some remanufacturers will work with organisations to develop a Used Furniture Management Plan that is a tailored solution for minimising office furniture costs.

The Benefits of Remanufacturing

• Cost savings: Remaufacturing reduces the cost of the furniture to less than half of its list price. Existing furniture can be remanufactured for around 30% of its replacement list price.

• Flexibility: Remanufacturing reshapes existing items to fit in a new layout and/or reupholsters them to match a new colour palette.

• Environmental benefits: Remanufactured furniture has an environmental footprint 80% lower than furniture made from virgin resources (including GHG emissions). It also helps organisations to reduce their waste to landfill.

• Community benefits: Labour is required to disassemble, check, resurface and rebuild remanufactured furniture, which can’t be cost effectively outsourced; the costs of transporting a chair overseas, compared to local remanufacturing will never make sense. This creates local economic benefits while reducing imports. It is also ideal work for long term unemployed, especially those with disabilities.

Is remanufacturing new?

Furniture reupholstering can trace its roots to the middle ages, but remanufacturing office furniture to as-new condition is relatively recent.

Photocopier manufacturers, Rolls Royce and Caterpillar have pioneered the science of precision remanufacturing for machinery as part of the development of the Circular Economy. This science has now transferred to the office furniture sector, led by Rype Office.

So while remanufacturing is relatively new, it offers huge promise and big cost savings to the age-old problem of what to do with unwanted furniture.

About the Author

Jamie Harbour is part of Rype Office, one of the UK’s leading office furniture remanufacturing companies. He can be contacted at jamie@rypeoffice.com


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