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A new lease of life for furniture

What happens to your old furniture when your organization or business moves? Furniture is often discarded despite being relatively new and hardly used. The Swedish furniture industry is now looking at ways to reuse more of its products.

This is called the circular economy and is actually nothing new. The recycling society, industrial ecology and waste hierarchy are some of its predecessors. They are all based on the same concept; specifically, to reuse that which has already been consumed, instead of using new raw materials and components.

“We want to see furniture with a long working life inbuilt at the point of manufacture. This should be easy to maintain and adjust,” says Lars Tööj, project manager at RISE. He offers the office chair as an example:

“It needs to be easy to replace components as they wear out or reach the end of their working life; the fabric cover for example. It shouldn’t be necessary to replace the entire chair just because certain components have worn out.” 

Many products are thrown away unnecessarily

The objective is to reduce the environmental impact and provide companies with new business opportunities. There have been previous initiatives on a smaller scale but RISE is now creating the conditions for the furniture industry to make a large-scale transition to a circular economy. The idea is that furniture should be part of a cycle; certain components can be replaced, but the furniture should be reused and given a new lease of life. Lars Tööj believes that some of the products manufactured today are made to be thrown away.

“It is precisely this that we want to change. We want to see products with a long working life. We have started with the furniture industry but, hopefully, the concept will spread to other sectors.

It is important to be able to trace furniture

One important factor is to develop a system for labelling and certifying reused furniture. This is also one of the areas of focus for the initiative. 

“When an item of furniture is reused, it is important that we know what materials it consists of and whether it contains hazardous substances. It will be much easier to repair and reuse furniture if we are able to track data about a particular item. 

The initiative is primarily aimed at furniture used in the public sector, which is why the customers are largely public authorities and government organizations.

“Public authorities have traditionally procured furniture as fixed assets, but what If they were able to procure it as a service instead, for example as service for quality furniture for municipalities. This would be similar to a leasing agreement and would benefit reuse.” 

Public authorities learn to think in circles

Another focus area is helping to create networks. Much of the collaboration around public procurement is about authorities exchanging experiences and becoming better at implementing circular procurement. Today, most public authorities only know how to implement a procurement for brand new goods.

“We are also looking at new business models. Circular business models are profitable for companies as a large part of their turnover is taken by costs for buying materials. If these materials can circulate instead, then the procurement costs for the company or authority will decrease,” concludes Lars Tööj.


Transition to a circular economy

RISE, together with a number of stakeholders, intends to provide the furniture industry with the conditions to transition to a circular economy. RISE is coordinating the initiative, although the following stakeholders are also involved: Albin i Hyssna, Allies, Rekomo, Centigo, FLOKK, Gärsnäs, Input interiör, Region Jönköping, Kinnarps, Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency, Linköping University, Lots Design, Offecct, Recycling partner RP, Region Skåne, SKL Kommentus inköpscentral, Svenssons, Swedese Möbler, Swerea IVF, Swedish Federation of Wood and Furniture Industry (TMF), Vasakronan, Västra Götalands Regionen, Volvo, White Arkitekter.

Learn more at:  www.cirkularitet.se

Lars Tööj

Senior Projektledare

+46 10 516 69 53
lars.tooj@ri.se

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