Bildet viser resirkulerte kontormøbler

What You Need to Know About the Benefits and Challenges of Reusing Office Furniture

Over 140,000 tons of office furniture are discarded in Norway each year, with a value of NOK 400 – 500 million. These are enormous figures that present great opportunities if we exploit the potential of the circular economy. In this article, we will take a closer look at the benefits and challenges of reusing office furniture.

We had a conversation with Lars Erik Sikkeland, the CEO of RE:intenvar, about the opportunities and challenges in recycling office furniture. His assessments have been used in this article.

RE:inventar is part of the Reinventar group. The Reinventar group consists of three companies, all of which aim to strengthen the circular economy within the furniture industry. This means that furniture should have a long lifespan, be repairable, and be reusable or redesigned for new use. All images used in this article are used with permission from RE:inventar.

Recycling Office Furniture Can Provide Many Benefits

There are four important benefit areas associated with recycling office furniture.

Environmental Benefits

The furniture sector faces high raw material costs and environmental challenges. Through recycling office furniture, we can reduce the need for new raw materials, thereby preserving valuable resources such as wood, metal, and plastic ​​(World Furniture Online)​. Renovation and reuse of office furniture help keep resources in the economy and reduce CO2 emissions associated with the production of new furniture. This approach supports the EU’s goals for a circular and low-carbon economy (EEB – The European Environmental Bureau)​.

Economic Benefits

Renovated office furniture can be significantly cheaper than new items. By recycling materials and components, companies can reduce production costs. This can, in turn, provide price benefits to customers or increased margins for producers. By designing furniture that can easily be repaired or upgraded, producers can significantly extend the lifecycle of products. EU policies increasingly support circular economy initiatives, including tax incentives for companies engaged in sustainable practices such as renovation and recycling of furniture.

Social Benefits

Recycling and renovating furniture often involve local businesses, creating jobs and supporting regional economies. This local economic activity is important for many communities. Companies that prioritize sustainable practices, including recycling office furniture, can improve their CSR profile. This commitment is increasingly important to stakeholders, including customers and investors who prioritize sustainability.

Market Benefits

According to a study by the European Federation of Furniture Manufacturers, the total annual furniture waste in the EU is about 10.78 million tonnes. A substantial portion of this waste consists of office furniture, and unfortunately, about 80-90% of this waste ends up in landfills or incineration, with only a small fraction being recycled​ (Furniture News)​​ (European C-E Stakeholder Platform)​. Norway, public institutions and private businesses annually purchase office furniture worth about NOK 4 billion. Over 140,000 tons of office furniture are discarded in Norway each year, worth NOK 400 – 500 million (DFØ). These are enormous figures that present great opportunities if we exploit the potential of the circular economy. Reuse and redesign open up new markets. Old furniture can get new life through creative redesign, appealing to environmentally conscious consumers. This can also open new market segments. Transparency around environmental impact and sustainable measures can increase engagement and loyalty among customers. Here, EPD plays an important role in documenting the climate footprint of products.

The circular economy opens up new business models such as furniture subscription services, where customers can exchange or upgrade furniture as needed. This can be compared to the car market, where the proportion of users utilizing various leasing and subscription models has increased. This also applies to used products.

Challenges in Reusing Office Furniture

Storing of office furniture

Although the opportunities are many, there are also challenges associated with reusing office furniture. These challenges are manageable and will change over time.

Limited Availability of Used Office Furniture

It can be difficult to find a consistent supply of high-quality used office furniture. Availability often depends on economic cycles, with more furniture available during downturns when companies cut costs and reduce purchases. Limited availability also applies to having enough recycled inventory that is matching and compatible. Office desks must fit the premises they are intended for.

Limited Capacity of Upholsterers

The industry organization Norges Møbeltapetserer – og Salmakerlaug organizes upholsterers and saddlers across the country. The organization currently has 40 member companies, which are mainly very small businesses. Estimates indicate that Sweden lacks 300 upholsterers (Fortidsminneforeningen). Adjusting for demographic differences, we can estimate that at least 150 are missing in Norway. This gap is growing.

Parts of the Market May Perceive Used as Inferior

There can be a stigma associated with used furniture, where customers consider them inferior to new products. This can also affect the brand of the producer. It is important to change attitudes towards redesign. You receive a new product.

High Requirements for Efficiency in Logistics and Operations

Used furniture comes without original packaging and is not flat-packed like an IKEA desk. This can present logistical cost challenges. Varying sizes and conditions also make transport potentially more expensive than for newer products.

High Price Competition

Parts of the market may prefer new office furniture of medium quality over recycled furniture of high quality. Competing with cheap new furniture, especially from producers who can mass-produce on a large scale, poses a significant challenge.

Lack of EPDs on Used Products

EPDs have primarily become widespread in the last few years. Older office furniture lacks EPDs. These must be obtained if the buyer group requires them.

Would you like to learn more about EPD? Then you can read our EPD guide.

Disposal of Non-Reusable Office Furniture Must Be Handled Efficiently

It cannot be ignored that not all furniture can be reused. In these cases, the producer must have processes for disposal in an environmentally friendly and efficient manner.

Meeting Customer Expectations and Customization Requirements Can Be Challenging

Modern office furniture may require customization to meet specific ergonomic and design requirements. Customers also expect warranties and reliable after-sales service for used furniture. This can be more complicated compared to new products. An example is access to spare parts.

Lack of Knowledge About Recycling and Used Office Furniture

The market is still characterized by a lack of insight among many stakeholders. There is a need for training of sellers and awareness among buyers.

If you want to know more about recycling office furniture and’s commitment, please contact us here.