How Much Furniture Ends Up In Landfill – Surplus furniture leads to landfill waste, students pick up inexpensive, eco-friendly store options, and recycling by communities and municipalities.
Every summer, outgoing students jam their cars with valuables, forcing them to play Tetris with tables, chairs and mattresses. What doesn’t fit must stay.
How Much Furniture Ends Up In Landfill
Sometimes, furniture sits patiently next to the dumpster, waiting to be picked up and transported to the landfill. Other times, the furniture sits comfortably in an air-conditioned thrift store, safe from wood rot and curious critters.
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Many movers are unaware of the environmental impact of disposing of furniture, and the majority of items end up in landfills. In a city often populated by students who often move in and out of furnished and undecorated apartments, furniture recycling and thrifty strategies have become popular in Gainesville.
Alyssa Sojima, a 21-year-old senior in education at UF, was in Gainesville during the quarantine when she passed by the turquoise glass closet by the Beaty Towers dumpster. This is just one of the hundreds of pieces of furniture that students have discarded since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furniture made up about 2 percent of all waste sent to landfills in 2019, according to the Alachua County Waste Composition Study 2019-2021. The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Timothy G.
“Now there’s a lot of big stuff like abandoned furniture,” he said. “If there was a way to reuse these and offset the cost of buying new furniture and making new furniture, that would be a huge savings and good for the environment.”
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The report makes several recommendations to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and energy footprint of waste. He proposed banning junk mail, mandating food donations, mandating the collection of rotting paper and implementing a building mandate to recycle 70 percent of buildings.
By the end of the summer, the city of Gainesville has seen about a 10 to 15 percent increase in discarded chairs, said Jeffrey Klug, Alachua County’s waste collection and adjunct assistant manager.
Although the chairs do not weigh much, they take up a lot of space. Klug said when you haul about 900 tons of trash through the county every day, space is an issue. In this case, the trash should be thrown into the trash.
“We see an increase in tunnels during migration and migration,” Klugh said. “But it adds to this kind of confusion with our operations.”
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Currently, there is no recycling program for old furniture in the entire city, and none of the collected waste can be used for waste energy, he said.
However, in June of this year, the City Commission passed a new solid waste ordinance that requires multi-family housing units to submit a “reuse plan” and notify residents of fundraising units a month before the move-out date. The scheme aims to divert household items, furniture and cardboard electronics from landfills.
The ordinance will take effect in 2023 for more than 200 apartments and 2025 for 2025.
That’s exactly what UF psychology graduate Daryn Pearlstein, 23, wanted from the city. The lack of an organized mass pickup service during the summer months worries Pearlstein about taking care of students and people who need to get everything done.
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For Pearlstein and her boyfriend, 23-year-old UF history student Alessandro Cepero, the rise in popularity of second-hand furniture has to do with its unique aesthetic, financial and environmental impact.
Although furniture from big box retailers like IKEA may appeal to Cepero, mid-century brings home paintings, stories and rugs from different eras.
“You don’t get quality either,” Cepero said. “When you talk about the mid-century, a lot of things were made by hand. “A lot of things are made with these expensive, heavy materials.”
At the individual level, reusing furniture is a popular option for reducing people’s negative impact on the environment. Thrift stores such as Reuse Planet and Habitat for Humanity ReStore are popping up around town. These stores divert hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste from landfills and nature corridors, providing an affordable alternative for students and low-income families.
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The ReStore, located at 2301 NW 6th Ave., is an extension of Habitat for Humanity, an organization that provides affordable housing for families. Store manager Gerald Garza said it’s a place where families can shop for affordable furniture.
At the ReStore, furniture that needs touch-ups is repaired, and unsalable metal or parts used for arts and crafts projects are scrapped, he said.
Besides visiting thrift stores, there are other options for those looking to cut down on waste.
Angela Clonan, a 22-year-old UF entrepreneurship master’s student, is a member of the Buy Nothing project. Several Don’t Buy Things in Gainesville Facebook pages are dedicated to different areas where members can post or ask for donations. Everything is free.
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“My brain is wired to be like, ‘Oh, if I get rid of stuff, I can get more stuff,'” he says. “It’s crazy, but I really like having things.”
Frustrated with having to pack their cars before going out, students choose not to pack and throw everything away, she said. For Cloonan, it’s an indication that people are too possessive, but don’t realize it until it’s too late.
“I think individual action is important,” Clonan said. “Even if you don’t see your impact right away, it also creates a sense of responsibility and a sense of sharing with others.”
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Fern is a junior journalism and sustainability studies major. He previously reported for university and metro desks. Now, it hits the corporate desktop environment. When he’s not reporting, you can find him grooving to house music at Barcade or taking pictures at the Olympics. It’s amazing how many thousands of tons of cheap, mass-produced items end up in Australian furniture. Mark Wender looks at the problem and some solutions.
We’ve all seen the mountains of wooden furniture—not to mention the mattress, white goods, and other types of rocks that appear in the hallway during mattress cleaning. Noticeable enough on one street, but how does this add up to the whole city?
Kevin Morgan, managing director of EC Sustainable, a consultant who has been examining the types of recycled materials for nearly 20 years, said: “There is a substantial problem with the disposal of used furniture in the greenhouse, and it’s a growing problem.” At council clearing collection points.
According to a survey of more than 500 households in major cities, on average, each household disposes of about 24 kilograms of wooden furniture per year. About one-third of this is soft furnishings like sofas and chairs, and two-thirds is wooden furniture.
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“If you consider the population of 2 million households in the Greater Sydney area, that’s 48,000 tonnes disposed of in beds every year,” Kevin said.
Applying this to furniture – and calculating the average weight of the furniture – this equates to 800,000 three-seater sofas, 1.65 million dining tables, 3.4 million coffee tables or 6.85 million chairs being discarded each year.
These figures are for Sydney only and do not include other furniture used for tipping by households and businesses or for illegal dumping. The problem is getting worse.
While our can-do culture is undoubtedly a root cause, Kevin argues that the poor quality of modern furniture is also a major factor. “A lot of new furniture usually doesn’t work after a few years, especially at the cheap end of the mass market.”
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Many of these products, he notes, are made of plywood and engineered wood that cannot be sandblasted back or retracted — they swell and rot quickly if exposed to moisture. Moreover, modern components are usually made of plastic rather than metal, so they are not as robust. When a knob or hinge breaks, it can be difficult to find a replacement. The price is so low that many people choose to move it and resupply it.
A big part of the solution is to change the mindset of consumers. When buying furniture, we should focus on quality and long-term use. We also get a better sense of how our furniture is made. In today’s globalized world, we don’t often see how each step of the production chain – logging, manufacturing, shipping – affects our planet. By championing the production of bespoke, responsibly made furniture, we are trying to help change this idea of handmade.
A community of independent, Australian artisans, the Craft Association creates quality pieces that are crafted to each client’s unique needs and last. There is direct communication with the manufacturer, so customers know where the materials come from and who made them
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