Memo: Recycle Old Office Furniture!

••• Tom Merton, Getty Images

With immediate effect: Please Recycle Your Office Furniture!

Many people haven't got the memo, and they fail to realize that office furniture is actually largely recyclable, and that, with minimal planning, it can be reused, refurbished or disassembled for recycling. This does a lot for the environment, such as through reducing the demand for materials (timber, metal and plastic), keeping large amounts of reusable waste from entering landfill, and reducing carbon emissions (which are associated with manufacturing new pieces).

In terms of emphasis on cost control and sustainability, this approach also does a lot for your business in terms of being a cheaper alternative for offices as well as a ‘visible’ way to show that you are serious about environment conservation and waste reduction. In this article, we have outlined some of the ways that you can recycle chairs, desks, partitions, workstations, storage solutions and other pieces that you no longer require.

What are my recycling options?

If you no longer need your office furniture but it is still in relatively good condition, you will find that many retailers and liquidators are happy to buy or receive it as a donation. These sorts of places specialize in the sale of used and refurbished furniture, so is a perfect way to get it off your hands. Charity and opportunity shops may also be happy to receive unwanted office fixtures, which they will resell on a much smaller scale.

What happens in the recycling process?

Office furniture that you no longer want can be recycled in a number of ways, including: reused as is, refurbished, recycled or repurposed. Often, the process that is selected will depend on the condition of the pieces.

  • Reuse – If the furniture is in relatively good and working condition, it will be resold as is. You will find that startups and businesses struggling financially are interested in purchasing second hand, as they are unable to afford brand new pieces.
  • Refurbish – If the fixtures cannot be resold as is, it will be touched up and made more presentable. This could include cleaning, repairing defects, replacing worn fabric and painting over scratches. These pieces are also popular amongst startups and struggling offices.
  • Recycle – If the furniture is not suitable for reuse at all (perhaps it’s damaged beyond repair) it will be disassembled, separated into various materials (such as metals, plastics and fabrics) and sent to the appropriate recycling center.
  • Re-purpose – If the furniture is not suitable for reuse, you might instead like to re-purpose it. We have seen various components turned into a sculpture, seating used in children’s cubby houses, and new legs added to a desk top for a dining table.

Do I need to prepare the furniture?

If you have opted for the donating or recycling option, you might need to prepare the furniture for pickup (this will, however, depend on the company you have chosen to donate to or recycle through). If the piece can be disassembled, it is recommend that you do so to make transportation easier. Drawers should be taped shut to ensure they remain intact. If you are recycling the piece, if you can separate its various materials this is also a good idea.

We hope that the information provided above has convinced you to recycle your old office furniture as opposed to throwing it out for hard rubbish collection. Just because you have updated to new, state-of-the-art chairs doesn’t mean that someone else can’t still benefit from your old, standard ones. Even if the furniture has been severely damaged, its parts can be recycled and turned into something new. Don’t knock any of these processes until you’ve tried them.