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Published on November 7th, 2017 | by Andrea Bertoli

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A Hidden Waste Stream: 9 Million Tons of Office Furniture Goes to Landfills Annually

November 7th, 2017 by  


We often talk about corporate or office waste in the sense of using less paper, less electricity, being more sustainable with our computer use, or switching to greener office products. But I had never truly considered the issue of corporate furniture waste until this press release landed in my inbox.

It’s truly astounding to see the amount of office furniture that’s being wasted each year. Here are some numbers to scare you right out of your swivel chair:

  • According to United States EPA estimates, up to 8.5 million tons, or 17 billion pounds, of office assets end up in US landfills annually.
  • Waste management represents up to 4% of a business or organization’s costs.
  • According to the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA), $10.2 billion worth of commercial furniture and equipment was produced, sold and used in 2015 in the U.S. alone.

How Do We Get So Much Office Waste?

I’ve been lucky to never have to work in a cubicle (I’m a happy coworker at Impact HUB Honolulu in an open desk plan), but if you’re in a cubicle now, take a look around and notice everything from a waste angle. Green Standards shares the following stats for average office situations:

  • A complete cubicle represents anywhere from 300 to 700 pounds of waste, the majority of which is ferrous metal, wood, and plastic.
  • A typical task chair has dozens of different materials and chemicals, making reuse far more effective and sustainable than recycling or landfill.
  • Diverting reusable office furniture from landfill protects the environment by reducing the demand for timber, metals, plastics and fabrics, reducing carbon emissions produced during the manufacturing process and disposal, and by diverting heavy durable goods from landfill.

Office Waste Solutions through Reuse and Repurpose

Green Standards, a sustainability firm, has been doing research on how we can change the way corporations dispose of their excess office furniture, equipment, and supplies.

Green Standards developed a program that offers office waste diversion solutions for companies and corporations looking to responsibly decommission their offices and large corporate campuses. They work with a network of 10,000 nonprofit partners to repurpose the office furniture and give it new life in a new office, keeping it out of landfills and reducing the need for new products to be created.

To date, they have diverted more than 35,000 tons of commercial furniture and equipment from the landfill while facilitating more than $20 million of in-kind donations to 2,800+ nonprofits across the US and Canada, with a 98.6% landfill diversion across more than 1,000 projects since 2010. Their average donation to nonprofits is about $7,000 (fair market value).

Their work has resulted in multiple case studies with Fortune 500 companies, and has resulted in diversion of 35,000 tons of commercial furniture and equipment from the landfill.

This diversion translates to to about 105,000 tonnes of carbon offset (CO2e offset) — roughly the same as 2,721,195 tree seedlings (grown for 10 years) or powering over 11,000 homes for a year.

Some good food for thought next time you head to the office store to grab some new furniture, right?

If you need to decommission your office, classroom, or corporate campus … consider ways to responsibly manage your waste through a circular economy-inspired approach. Although liquidation can seem like the easiest option, it most often leads to landfill. When you donate, resell, and recycle, you’re keeping assets in use, giving them new life to someone in need and turning your waste into change.

For more information and innovative solutions for your upcoming office decommissions, contact Green Standards and turn your surplus office furniture and equipment into a win-win business strategy that benefits your team, your community, and the greater environment.


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About the Author

A plant-based chef, educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in Honolulu, Hawaii, Andrea is also the Accounts Manager for Important Media. Follow her foodie adventures on Instagram



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