The UK’s largest furniture association is consulting on the challenges and opportunities presented by the circular economy in order to help reduce the amount of furniture waste sent to landfill in the UK.
The Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) wants to gauge the “practical steps” needed to adopt a circular economy approach within the furniture industry, and is asking for stakeholders to participate in a survey, which is part of a new research project to explore the business case for a circular economy for the furniture industry.
Annually in the UK, more than 1m tonnes of waste furniture and mattresses are sent to landfill, according to FIRA, with furniture increasingly highlighted by regulatory bodies as a key area for meeting waste reduction targets.
James Bell, FIRA – “By stimulating key debate and dialogue, we can continue to support our members by acting as the central repository of information on the topic of the circular economy, as well as sustainable development more generally, across the industry”
According to FIRA estimates, upwards of 90% of the raw materials used in manufacturing are lost to wastage before the product even departs the factory, whilst 80% of products are disposed of within the first six months of their life.
The implementation of a circular economy strategy would aim to close the loop to ensure that existing materials and products are kept in productive use for as long as possible through a combination of design, innovation, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling.
FIRA’s sustainability expert, James Bell, explains: “The issue of waste is not going away. The statistics don’t lie: we live in a society predicated on unsustainable wastage and resource inefficiency. All of this despite the ever-increasing cost of sending waste to landfill and the volatility of raw materials prices.
“A critical part of this initial feasibility study will be feedback from our members and other stakeholders, and we hope that this valuable consultation will underpin our future efforts in supporting and facilitating the industry’s transition to a circular economy.”
The furniture industry has attracted the attention of the regulators as both the European Commission and UK Government have highlighted furniture and bulky goods as a priority target for action.
A recent report by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) think tank and SUEZ looked into some of the barriers preventing furniture such as sofas from being reused.
Rearranging the Furniture, found that over 80% of the environmental impact of products we use every day is built in at the concept design stage, and that furniture manufacturers should learn from reuse and recycling companies in order to improve the end-of-life implications of their designs.
Growing calls to progress new, and ever more binding, waste reduction targets, as part of the EU Commission’s so called circular economy package could see the introduction of a raft of reduction measures including extended producer responsibility requirements and pay-as-you-throw usage pricing.
“This project emphasises the Association’s recognition of the importance of the circular economy to the future of the furniture industry, and its supply chain,” Bell said.
“Whilst the concept and theory behind the circular economy have been addressed by a number of distinguished organisations and institutions, we feel it is imperative to complement this existing research with a sectoral analysis of the furniture industry’s current and future role in this evolving area.
“By stimulating key debate and dialogue, we can continue to support our members by acting as the central repository of information on the topic of the circular economy, as well as sustainable development more generally, across the industry.”
The survey closes 1 November 2015.