For its recent office fit-out, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) adhered to the principles of the waste hierarchy, reusing where possible and using remanufactured furniture and items manufactured from waste materials for the rest.
Remanufacturing is a quality-controlled engineering process that restores an item of office furniture to as-new condition, saving 80% of the environmental footprint of the same item made from virgin resources.
By choosing remanufactured furniture, CIWM avoided the equivalent of 7.6 tonnes of embodied CO2– and saved money.
Thanks to recent technological advances, remanufacturing and the circular economy means that you can have a beautiful affordable workplace with an 80% lower environmental impact and no compromise on quality or design
The remanufactured furniture has an auspicious pedigree, with the desks having their first life at Amazon’s UK office and the chairs having served the leading advertising and PR firm WPP.
CIWM sourced custom pieces made from post-consumer recycled waste plastic, such as tables with tops made from yogurt pots, kitchen chopping boards and difficult-to-recycle black plastic bin bags.
Re-design, re-think, re-use
To minimise its footprint, CIWM worked with RypeOffice, an award-winning British sustainable office design and furniture remanufacturing company who are a leading exponent of circular economy offices.
CIWM’s CEO, Sarah Poulter, explained that finding a sustainable way to fit out an office was more difficult than expected.
“We wanted the move to be as resource efficient as possible,” she said, “but when it came to finding suppliers, we were really surprised at how difficult it was.
We wanted to create a space that inspired people. We wanted it to be professional and modern and also reflect CIWM’s ethos of resource efficiency, sustainability and the circular economy
“Everything out there on the market was very piecemeal and, without Rype Office’s help, it would have required a tremendous amount of time and resources to track these pieces down.
“As it turned out, we found the best solution for our new space, not only showing furnishing an office can be done sustainably with reuse in mind, but it can also be done stylishly – something we’re going to shout about, hoping it will show the high quality of remanufactured furniture that is available thanks to the circular economy.”
The top of CIWM’s new board room table was made from waste yoghurt pots, styled with tin foil flecks to tell the story of the table material’s previous life.
The top was paired with stylish high-end Vitra table legs from the corporate headquarters of Marks & Spencer (M&S).
The oak kitchen table and benches, used daily by staff, is from the head office of online fashion retailer ASOS – and remanufactured to its original condition.
Dr Greg Lavery, director of Rype Office, explained that that there is still a stigma around furniture which has had a previous life: “Unfortunately, the prevailing attitude is that to fit-out an office you need to purchase new furniture with a huge environmental impact.
“Doing so means that, over the 40-year life of a commercial building, furniture is the biggest source of embodied carbon emissions in a building at 30%.
“Thanks to recent technological advances, remanufacturing and the circular economy means that you can have a beautiful affordable workplace with an 80% lower environmental impact and no compromise on quality or design.”
Moving into a smaller space meant new homes had to be found for a lot of furniture and some technology, and CIWM was happy to make donations local schools and charities.
Tina Benfield, CIWM’s technical manager, sought outlets for this material locally and was approached by CIWM member Steve Sliney of CollectEco who offered to repurpose the excess furniture and equipment via their networks.
A number of organisations and groups contacted CollectEco and arrived to collect their selection. Items were labelled and stacked ready for collection, tables were dismantled and CollectEco made some deliveries – NHS Leicester for example.
Recipients included Northampton School for Girls, Derby Sea Cadets, Disability Network, Madani School Federation, Deaf Blind Conference Organisation, NHS Leicester, and the British Heart Foundation.
Remanufacturing and reuse of the office furniture wasn’t the only thing that made this office move sustainable. CIWM staff sifted through drawers, trawled through folders, shredded, sorted and separated everything that could possibly be sent somewhere for recycling.
“We wanted to reduce to the absolute minimum the amount of ‘stuff’ that was disposed of, so this meant separating and emptying folders, building piles of items – trays, bins, desk tidies, footrests, etc,” Tina said.
Sarah said: “We wanted to create a space that inspired people. We wanted it to be professional and modern and also reflect CIWM’s ethos of resource efficiency, sustainability and the circular economy. I think we’ve done just that and I’m happy to say we’ve settled very well into our sustainably finished new home.”
You can read more on how to embark on a sustainable office move in the upcoming July / August issue of Circular magazine.