Is Working From Home As Environmentally-Friendly As We Think?

With over 15 MILLION empty chairs and desks across the nation (due to the sudden, and forced call to work from home), landfill concerns are rising.

BusinessWaste.co.uk (the business waste specialists) are concerned about the mountains of unwanted and unused office furniture making its way to landfill, as offices close, and as companies embrace the future of working.

A study undertaken by YouGov showed that a quarter of UK businesses are planning to close or downsize their office space as a result of the shift toward home-working, with the BBC reporting that over 50 major employees have ‘no plans to return full time.’

There were over 6 million private sector businesses in the UK in 2020 (ONS), – the vast majority of which were small businesses, with have an average of 10 employees. If a quarter of businesses closed their office space, this would mean that around 15 million desks and chairs would become unused.

A spokesperson for BusinessWaste.co.uk said: “Charity shops are full to the brim with stuff that people have cleared out during their pandemic spring clean. Most don’t have the capacity to store bulky items, such as desks and chairs in large quantities. Plus, even if they did, there’s no resale market. Other offices are closing down en masse, so there’s nobody who wants to buy them.”

Another issue is the risk of strain on waste centres: second-hand office retailers and reselling sites, such as eBay, were previously a great choice for cheap office renovations, or new businesses who are short of cash. But now, these sites are overflowing with second-hand furniture at ever-lower prices, and waste disposal centres don’t have the capacity to cope with these larger amounts of office furniture all at once.

Mark Hall, the Founder of BusinessWaste, said: “Some furniture types can be recycled effectively. Chipboard and metal, both of which are key components of many office desks, can be recycled effectively, but it remains to be seen whether businesses will take the time to separate them into the individual components and recycle them appropriately. We certainly hope so.

He added: “Some retailers, such as IKEA – who are a popular choice, especially amongst smaller businesses who love their cheap and cheerful pieces, offer to buy back or recycling schemes, so this is something we hope will be used, too. But realistically, we are still about to have millions and millions of desks and chairs heading to landfill sites – a real concern. Businesses should not forget their obligation to dispose of waste responsibly, even in unusual circumstances such as this.”