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How do I legally dispose of my old office furniture?

Author : Head of Pickfords Business Solutions Martin Budd

10 January 2019

Disposing of 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If you’re relocating or refurbishing your office, one of the key considerations is what to do with your outdated furniture: those old office chairs with fraying upholstery, scuffed desks that have seen better days and filing cabinets that, thanks to your virtual office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 arrange for disposal . But 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 five 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, energy recovery, then, only if all else fails, disposal. This directive exists not only because it promotes what’s best for the environment, but also as it helps businesses by keeping the growing demand for materials in check, in turn, also keeping 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.

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:

Reselling or donating Preventing your furniture from becoming waste can be achieved either through selling it to a third party or donating it to a local charity.

If you’re downsizing and have no room for excess furniture, or the old desks and chairs simply don’t fit in with the interior of your brand new office, your unwanted furniture may be in good enough condition to sell on to a third party.

Furniture dealers will typically pay for second hand furniture and resell it in their networks, meaning your company can benefit from the sale.

Should your furniture be slightly warn but still useable, your goods can be donated to a charity or used in a community project or donated to a local school.

The advantage to you is the association your company has with whichever charity you choose, this can all be communicated to your customers as a CSR activity.

Recycling

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.

Other recovery

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.

Disposal

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; it really just depends 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 positive recommendations to meet those needs quickly and within the law.

Martin Budd is Head of Business Solutions at Pickfords and is a member of the British Association of Removers’ Commercial Moving Group.

If you are planning a workplace change project or office relocation and are confronted with the challenge of lawful, ethical disposal, contact solutions@pickfords.com or call us on 0845 130 6559.


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