What’s the lifespan of the average office desk or swivel chair? Under the “make, take, and waste” philosophy underpinning the linear economy, it’s a short one, lasting only a handful of years before they wind up in a garbage heap. These office assets end their life buried in a landfill in the short time it takes for a corporation to move or renovate.

Under the circular economy, however, these office assets could stay out of the landfill to lead a second life at another location. That’s the goal of the sustainable office decommission industry, which attempts to close the loop on a broken linear economy and provide a greener solution to liquidation.

 Traditional Office Liquidations and the Problem of F-Waste

When an office prepares to move or renovate, old office furniture usually doesn’t have a spot in the new space. At this point, a corporation may turn to a liquidation service that promises to sell office furniture before disposing of the rest.

On the surface, this seems like a perfect solution to the problem. However, these liquidation services typically only sell 20 percent of the furniture or equipment on hand, while the remaining 80 percent of an office’s inventory goes to landfill.

There, it joins nearly 9 million tons of office furniture and equipment that gets thrown away in the U.S. each year. This furniture waste (or f-waste) is a class of hazardous waste that locks away valuable natural resources, creates carbon emissions, and leaks toxins into the environment.

What’s more, corporations pay a high price for these environmental losses. They spend up to 634 million euros annually in landfill tipping fees to dispose of their f-waste without getting any insights or other benefits in return.

The irony here is that many of the same corporations have multi-million-dollar budgets that put funds toward creating more sustainable business practices. Through the lens of the circular economy, this conventional liquidation method is a failed system at odds with these new green objectives. Corporations spend a lot of money and effort to throw away furniture —a bad habit that puts pressure on manufacturers and causes irreparable damage to the environment.

Sustainable Decommission Services Look at Used Office Furniture Differently

Sustainable decommission services offer an eco-conscious alternative that breaks through this wasteful business model. It takes its cues from nature, where there is no landfill. In the natural world, nothing goes to waste. Materials grow, die, and decompose before starting the process all over again.

A sustainable decommission service mimics this circular lifespan by trying to eliminate how much f-waste finds its way into landfills. They do this by finding office assets a second life in the following ways:

1. Sales

A sustainable decommission service first aims to sell assets at fair market value to generate revenue. They have a vast network of companies that buy used office furniture, and this partnership makes it easy to move furnishings quickly.

In this way, they’re similar to conventional liquidation methods. The only difference is, the items that they can’t sell won’t find their way to landfill without exhausting the next two steps.

2. Donations

A decommission service’s next task is to donate old office furniture to its network of charitable partners. These in-kind donations keep used office furniture out of the landfill, extending its life by finding it a second home with critical social service organizations.

The donation of used office furniture comes as a huge boon to non-profits and charities alike. Rather than spending their finite programming dollars on new furniture, they can receive used office furniture for free and focus on supporting their community with the money they save.

3. Recycling

If there are any remaining assets that can’t find a second home, they still won’t find their way into a landfill. Sustainable decommission services take care to recycle these items properly, ensuring as many reusable materials can re-enter the manufacturing cycle.

This helps manufacturing and waste chains that need to demonstrate end-of-life impacts of their products to meet their own sustainability targets.

The Environmental and Social Impact of a Circular Decommission

A single sustainable office decommission service can divert more than 70,000 tonnes of f-waste from landfills at a 98.6 percent diversion rate. They can offset over 175, 000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions and donate more than $31 million in surplus assets.

These stats trickle down to the corporations that they help, making up the meat of good news stories corporations can share with employees, shareholders, and their community. A sustainable decommission service will provide these essential details so that a company can demonstrate their social and environmental responsibility to the world, just as pulp and paper manufacturer Georgia-Pacific did.

In a multi-year project called Blue Sky, Georgia-Pacific revitalized its 21-storey headquarters with the help of a sustainable office decommission service. Together, they diverted 538 tons of salvageable materials, equipment, and office furnishings from landfill and produced $195,821 of in-kind charitable donations.

You can read about the process here on their blog, where they share the impact their sustainable choice had on their community.

Bottom Line

When you have no use for old desk chairs and partitions, it’s easy to see them as junk that needs to be removed. An outdated business model informs this kind of thinking, which ignores the crucial detail that materials — including those that go into office furnishings and equipment — are finite resources.

In a circular economy, however, office assets aren’t doomed to become f-waste. A sustainable decommission service proves they can go onto live a second life with another company or a charitable non-profit.

When you realize the value of selling, donating, and recycling your used office furniture, making the switch is simple. For the same price as conventional liquidation services, you can have a massive impact on the environment and your community.