What Happens to Surplus Office Furniture?

Daniel Walsh

08 Aug 2021

Surplus Office Furn Hero

With everything from budgets, timescales and environmental issues impacted, understanding what happens to used office furniture, how to properly dispose of it, and who may be willing to pick it up for you can be incredibly useful. We have put together this handy blog to inform you of everything you need to know when it comes to used office furniture.

What happens to used office furniture?

Office furniture can end up just about anywhere. From being broken down and put in a skip or taken to a landfill, donated to charity, or recycled, there are a whole host of simple and cost-effective ways to get rid of unwanted office furniture responsibly.

To put it simply, although some methods of getting rid of unwanted items are more preferable than others - while some are even illegal - the fate of surplus office furniture is in your hands and all comes down to which method of removal you choose. Below we’ve listed some of the most common places used office furniture ends up.

Where does used office furniture go?

  • Landfill
    • According to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), over 1.2 million office desks and 1.8 million chairs end up in landfill each year. Although more sustainable and environmentally-friendly disposal methods are becoming more common, as we will come on to discuss, at the moment the sad reality is the tip is where most used office furniture goes.
  • Donated to charity
    • Some companies and charities specialise in helping businesses find new homes for old furniture, meaning some surplus furniture does get reused. Crown Workspace, for example, have worked closely with businesses looking to get rid of surplus furniture and, since 2011, have aided in the donation of more than 20,000 items of furniture to charity. This is not only a sustainable option, it also provides financial help to organisations that can really benefit from the extra support.
  • Broken down and recycled
    • Although not yet as common as landfills or donations, some unwanted office furniture is recycled. If donating isn’t a feasible option due to damage, recycling is the next best thing. While breaking an item down into its component parts is time-consuming, being able to send unwanted wood, glass, metal, and plastic to be recycled and repurposed is not only much more eco-friendly than taking it to the tip, it is also a rewarding process.

How to dispose of used office furniture

As we have looked at above, there are a number of ways to dispose of used office furniture, with some methods more sustainable than others.

As a business, your first priority should always be to look into the possibility of selling, donating, or recycling old office furniture. These methods of disposal are not only far kinder on our environment than simply sending items to landfill, they can also make you some money or simply help your business achieve sustainability targets.

If, however, selling or donating items of surplus furniture is not an option, perhaps because the piece of furniture in question is broken or damaged, for example, and you do not have the facilities to dispose of the item responsibly yourself, you may need to call in professional help in order to safely and responsibly recycle or tip the furniture.

This might involve hiring a licensed ‘man with a van’ service to take items to the tip or recycling centre for you, or even working with a professional office furniture removal company for larger jobs.

Does the council collect used furniture?

Although many local councils will collect large items of waste such as sofas, tables, kitchen appliances, and other items of furniture for a fee, this typically only applies to domestic properties.

While you can always call your local council to double-check. However, as a rule, businesses and tradespeople have a duty to arrange their own commercial waste removal and recycling using private sector services. This includes the collection, removal, and safe disposal of used office furniture.

Can I burn office furniture?

Burning old and unwanted office furniture is not advised and in some cases is even illegal. While both domestic households and businesses are permitted to burn small amounts of paper, cardboard, wood, and leaves, it is actually illegal to burn treated wood, rubber, plastic, and certain oils due to the toxic fumes these materials can produce. As many items of office furniture contain these materials, burning them is a bad idea.

Aside from potentially damaging your own health, that of your employees, and the surrounding environment, any business caught illegally disposing of waste, such as office furniture, using fire can face a whopping £50,000 fine.

Who will pick up used office furniture?

As we have discussed throughout this blog, you have a number of options when it comes to the question of who will pick up used and unwanted office furniture. Whether you look to sell used items to smaller businesses and make some money in the process, donate items to charity to give something back, or hire professionals to help you remove and recycle pieces of furniture that cannot be reused, there are a variety of options available to you.

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