A Circular Solution to Waste
November 13 , 2020
It’s not what it sounds like. “F-waste” is also known as Furniture Waste, even though it sounds like a harsh swear word. That being said, sustainable folks like us are finding that more frequently we are cursing at the amount of waste humans have accumulated. Every Canadian generates almost a tonne of municipal waste per year, and, in the U.S., over 9 million tons of unwanted furniture ends up in the landfill each year. When it comes to disposing of furniture, many items end up in a landfill because they were not manufactured sustainably and contain chemicals. That’s why it’s best to repurpose, resell, or donate furniture we no longer want. The less toxic waste in the landfill, the better.
We’ve all experienced that sad, sad moment at the end of the month, looking out the window on a typical rainy Vancouver day, and seeing a perfectly usable chair or side table disregarded next to a dumpster. Yes, it is up to us to prevent this from happening, to take a closer look at the cycles of waste; but it is also up to the manufacturers of these goods to make sustainability a priority in the production of their furniture.
Not to scare you or anything—although this did scare us—with the way we are currently treating our Earth, it is predicted that by 2050 we will have exhausted all of its resources to sustain life. To prevent this, it’s crucial we focus on transforming our material demand, production, and consumption. This can be done by using less and consuming less, as well as creating a circular approach to resources so that products and materials can be redesigned to function again for multiple and distinct purposes. What does this mean for us? We need to contribute to a system that allows for our material outputs to return as inputs. We could render waste obsolete. It may sound like a dream, but it could be a reality!
One circular approach that is both affordable for the consumer and sustainable for the producer is subscription-based businesses. When you hear “subscription” you may think of Netflix or Spotify, two trailblazers of subscription-based systems. But subscription products come in all shapes and sizes. Cue: furniture. Not only are subscription services effective during the pandemic—allowing for contactless delivery and support of local businesses—but they streamline affordable well-made products that can continuously grow and improve with us. Developers who create ‘one-time-purchases,’ don’t have much incentive to maintain the product. Once they’ve received the money and the consumer has the product, they can dust off their suits as their job is complete. But they’ve forgotten about the other contributor in this transaction, the Earth! With a subscription-based product, companies become familiar with their customers and can design products specifically for their clients, all the while utilizing sustainable materials to create less waste. Heck yeah. Like at Abacus, we make it easy to return a piece for reuse, incorporate a new style or trend, and also provide options if you need to scale up or down for a new space.
While Canada has not yet created jurisdictions or incentives for provinces or territories to divert furniture from ending up in landfills, we see a great opportunity to challenge a broken system. It really is up to us to take the reins and focus on the first of the ‘Three-R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’. Reducing is often neglected, even though it is far more sustainable for us to design products with minimal waste outputs than scramble to clean them up after the fact. There is no reason we can’t have cost-effective, well-designed furniture that is also worth keeping, that won’t deteriorate when moved, or go out of style in a few seasons or years. The idea is to buy and to keep affordable high-quality products, avoiding Ikea and its pesky temptations of low-cost, disposable furniture. Through implementing these subscription practices we will see greenhouse gas reduction and cleaner air and water. We can look forward to protecting local biodiversity, boosting sustainable energy development, and increasing the number of green jobs. What’s not to like?
Want to learn more about how we keep Abacus furniture in a circular model while maintaining the best practices for cleanliness and safety? Check out our FAQ here.