Compared to most products and materials we discard, furniture typically has a long shelf life. In most cases when we no longer need an item of furniture it does not become waste, it’s still perfectly reusable in its current form and is sold or passed on to someone else.
When this is not possible, to get rid of the item of furniture it is taken to a household waste recycling centre (HWRC) or picked up by a council bulky waste collection service. Approximately 700,000 tonnes of furniture is collected this way each year by local authorities in the UK, the majority of which is taken to the HWRC. Sofas, wardrobes, drawers, chairs and beds are the main items to be discarded.
It is estimated that up to 10 per cent of this will be suitable for reuse in the condition it is, while another 20 per cent will be reusable with some form of repair. Increasingly, local authorities are locating reuse shops at the same site as an HWRC, or making provision for potentially reusable furniture to be assessed before disposal. Reuse is higher up the waste hierarchy than recycling, as it preserves the energy that was required to make the product in the first place.
In a recent Welsh Government report ‘Preparing for re-use: A roadmap for a paradigm shift’, it is estimated that there are potentially up to 1,170,000 tonnes of reusable items (the largest proportion being furniture and textiles) could be saved from disposal and Wales could make nearly £1.5 million in sales from items prepared for reuse, as well as greenhouse gas savings of 4.6 million tonnes (CO2 equivalent) when factoring in the reduced amount of emissions from incineration, landfill and manufacturing that would accompany this rise in reuse.
When furniture cannot be reused, then recycling will be possible, determined by the material it is made from, typically wood, plastic or metal. //link to these materials elsewhere on the site