As the popularity of disposable flatpack furniture has risen, so too has the amount of furniture waste.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of furniture and furnishings taken to a landfill rose from 7.6 million tons in 2005 to 9.69 million tons in 2015, and the rate of increase is accelerating.
But a Canadian company called Green Standards is helping Fortune 500 companies and startups donate, resell, or recycle their office furniture. Since 2010, the company has diverted more than 50,000 tons of furniture from landfills across Canada and the US. alone, and coordinated $25 million worth of furniture donations to nonprofits.
“When corporations realize the value in donating these items to local nonprofits compared to dumping them in a landfill and paying to do that, it’s like a no-brainer,” said Marc Borins of Green Standards. “it’s a win-win-win-win all the way down the road. That’s what we’re trying to do for companies.”
Working with companies moving to a new office or just buying new furniture for their existing office, Green Standards tries to resell the more expensive pieces to help offset costs. Most of the inventory they work with gets donated to a local nonprofit, which the company can then deduct from their taxes.
It tries to recycle what can’t be donated, but because furniture can be made from a number of different materials and chemicals, this isn’t always an option. Anything that can’t be resold, recycled, or donated goes to a landfill.
The company says 98.6 percent of the office furniture inventory it’s dealt with across 1,500 projects has been diverted from a landfill, resulting in a more than 180,000-metric-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 2009.
Green Standards gets the bulk of its business from California and Texas, Borins says, both of which have thriving business climates. In Silicon Valley, rapidly growing (or failing) startups often have evolving office furniture needs that make Green Standards a popular choice for transitions. Since the financial crisis in 2008, Texas has become a more popular destination for major corporations thanks to its low taxes and plentiful land and housing.
Awareness of furniture waste, sometimes referred to as “f-waste,” has grown as flatpack furniture companies have risen to prominence. Ikea announced it was testing a pilot program for an office furniture rental program in Switzerland. Other furniture rental startups like Feather target urban millennials who may not want to lay down roots. If they rent their furniture instead of buying, the idea goes, their furniture will be repurposed to another consumer after they move, instead of the landfill.
Correction: A previous version of this story implied that flatpack furniture makers Ikea, Floyd, and Burrow manufacture products that contribute to a growing furniture-waste issue. Curbed regrets the error.