Ever wondered what happened to that old computer desk or trusty swivel chair left languishing by the water cooler after the latest office refurb? Odds are they ended up in landfill – but with ethical recycling options now available at reasonable rates, disposing of once-loved office furniture doesn’t have to cost the earth.
CMS Cambridge, COEL’s furniture, relocation and storage division, offer an ethical recycling and furniture disposal service, and have noticed a growing interest in the planet-friendly practice. Part of office fit-out specialists COEL, CMS work with innovative business Sustain, located in Accrington, Lancashire, which recycles redundant furniture and packaging, to ensure zero goes to landfill.
Since its inception, Sustain (a division of The Senator Group) – which boasts a purpose-built £1.5million 15,000ft2 recycling unit – has recycled more than 270,000 items and diverted more than 7.5million kg of waste from landfill.
Ashley Hovells, General Manager at CMS, explains:
“A couple of years ago sending old furniture to landfill was significantly cheaper than ethical disposal, but now they are pretty much on a parr. Going down the ethical route, you can save on skip costs, and it is convenient as Senator will arrive with a 40ft lorry, load the furniture up and do the rest for you.
“We are noticing a real interest from customers in ethical recycling now; as the world becomes more aware of problems with climate change and plastic in the ocean, a lot of companies no longer want to send their old furniture to landfill.”
CMS has worked with a variety of clients including pharmaceutical and tech companies in and around Cambridge, and large social media and broadcasting businesses in London, to sustainably dispose of a variety of unwanted furniture.
“So far this year, through our work with Senator on ethical recycling we’ve already saved approximately 109,000kg in CO2 emissions, which is pretty remarkable,” adds Ashley.
Sustain’s commitment to ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ begins from the point of pick-up. To limit emissions and transport costs, where possible they will utilise a delivering vehicle to backload or divert one of their passing lorries rather than earmark an empty vehicle for furniture collection.
Once the haul arrives at their plant, Sustain will assess its viability for remanufacturing, so a seat may be reupholstered, resprayed, and reassembled, or a desktop could be given a different shape, and any broken components replaced or upgraded.
Remanufacturing is an effective way to retain embedded carbon within an item of furniture – and extends its life cycle beyond one single economic use.
Furniture with any life left in it is also donated to local charities, schools, social enterprises, and community hubs.
For the chairs, desks and screens that can’t be remanufactured, Sustain offers an ‘audited zero to landfill recycling service’, which sees items being broken down to their raw materials – wood, metal, plastic, fabrics, and foam – then reused in new products.
So, foam from seating is baled, shredded, and extruded into carpet underlay; fabric undergoes a similar process to become anything from car acoustics to punch bag stuffing; plastics can be transformed into trays, garden furniture, bins or even coffee coasters, whilst wood is shredded and used as animal bedding or reclaimed fuel for Sustain’s biomass burner.
“The work that Sustain does in recycling furniture and creating new products is incredible,” says Ashley.
“There are many benefits for the customer too. They receive a recycling certificate, which will tell them how much has been diverted from landfill, in terms of waste and carbon emissions, along with a product list of what was ethically recycled. It’s great for their green credentials.”
With the pandemic forcing many companies to look at modifying office space, leading to potentially surplus furniture, ethical recycling is a great, sustainable option for eco-disposal. Find out more at cmscambridge.co.uk