The Secret Waste Problem of Corporate America

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Corporate America has a secret waste problem, and it’s not what you think.

It’s not all the paper the average office worker prints in a day, nor is it all the energy it takes to power a large enterprise’s servers. Although these are significant in their own right, they’re the obvious environmental faux-pas targeted by many sustainability best practices.

The silent problem in many offices is furniture waste. The desks, filing cabinets, and ergonomic swivel chairs that make up the average cubicle often go straight to a landfill in alarming numbers.

What is Furniture Waste?

Furniture waste, or f-waste, consists of the various fittings, fixtures, and equipment needed to outfit the typical office.

If you work in an office, take a look around your cubicle the next time you sit at your computer. You might see partitions, shelving units, cabinets, desks, and let’s not forget the chair you sit on. These items are usually a composite of plastic, wood, metal, and chemicals.

All of this will likely become f-waste one day.

According to the United States Environmental Protection agency, 8.5 million tons of office assets wind up in U.S. landfills each year. That’s 17 billion pounds, or the equivalent of roughly 1,416,666 adult African elephants. Processing all this trash costs the American people $750 million annually.

Why Does This Happen?

A corporation often creates f-waste when it moves branches, closes a location, or revitalizes an existing space. Why? It may be a costly logistical challenge to move used office furniture to a new location, or the corporation may simply no longer have a need for these items. Many corporate offices are moving to more open-concept office floor plates and with it comes the disposal of older cubicles and private offices.

On the surface, the simplest solution is to throw everything out, even if these items are in excellent condition, but two issues arise from this decision.

  1. Cost. What many people don’t realize is how expensive it is to remove unnecessary equipment. Conventional liquidation and moving services apply higher prices each year, especially as landfill tipping fees — or the cost to use landfills — continue to climb.
  2. F-waste is a class of hazardous waste, meaning it may contaminate the environment if it isn’t disposed of properly.

Is There an Alternative?

Luckily, the landfill isn’t the only option for disposing of used office furniture. There are environmental services that facilitate old office furniture removals and redistribute it on behalf of corporations. Their work can divert most of an office’s inventory from a landfill through the following three methods:

  1. Reselling items to other for-profit offices
  2. Donating free office furniture to non-profits in need of equipment
  3. Recycling any remaining items properly

Inspired by the circular economy, these environmental services follow reduce and reuse philosophies to eliminate waste. To see how this plays out on the corporate scale, check out Green Standards and its case studies on used office furniture.

What Are the Benefits?

Simply put, sustainable office decommission services keep furniture in use (and out of landfills) for as long as possible. This helps corporations hit sustainability targets while protecting their bottom line. By avoiding the typical liquidation and landfill tipping fees, sustainable office decommissions offer eco-friendly solutions that work within an existing decommission budget.

It also creates the opportunity to make positive change in your community when you donate. Brand new equipment comes with quite the sticker shock for non-profits operating on a tight budget. Ordinarily, this cost may be impossible to justify no matter how badly they need new chairs or desks. Donations offer them a way to outfit their offices without spending any money.

If you’re in charge of your company’s next move, rethink your plans to include the circular economy. It’s more than a waste solution. It’s a socially conscious way to redistribute old office furniture to people and organizations that need it.

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