The federal government is backing the creation of a new scheme that could solve the stubborn problem of mountains of mint condition furniture ending up in landfill each time an office lease ends.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has awarded a $370,000 grant to Good Environmental Choice Australia, the Global Product Stewardship Council and Edge Environment to design a product stewardship scheme to prevent the 30,000 tonnes of commercial furniture from going to waste.
The intention of product stewardship schemes is to shift responsibility for a product’s end-of-life onto all parties involved in its design, manufacture, sale, use and disposal.
These schemes vary but can call for product design that is easier to recycle at the end of life, or the use of more recycled material in the manufacture of the product.
Solving the office defit problem has been a “hard nut to crack” according to Edge Environment chief executive officer, Jonas Bengtsson.
It’s a problem the Better Buildings Partnership has spent many years working on in Sydney, and with success. This has included a program with The Green List to promote businesses working on sustainable defit.
Part of the challenge has been finding a new home for furniture at the right time, with storage and space issues common deterrents.
“Responsible commercial furniture disposal is something that government and industry has been looking to achieve for a number of years now, but in essence has been limited and fragmented,” John Polhill, vice president of the GlobalPSC and principal of Circular-e solutions said.
“Product stewardship provides a framework to identify and address market failures and a structure whereby organisations can work collaboratively and efficiently to design a common and targeted stewardship scheme that improves the reuse and recycling of furniture from commercial properties in Australia.”
Mr Bengtsson said that the program will have other benefits along with reducing waste.
“With this funding we have the opportunity to create a solution that with the support of property companies, contractors and furniture companies alike, with the potential to improve environmental outcomes, drive economic benefits and create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.”
Modernising waste management in Australia is on the federal government’s agenda, with a $190 million Recycling Modernisation Fund announced in last years’ budget.
The project is due to start in April and will run until 2023.