GreenChair saves office furniture from landfill, while helping WA charities furnish for free

After 20 years in the construction industry fitting out corporate offices, Gordon Bateup was tired of seeing perfectly usable office furniture being sent to landfill, simply because it was outdated or an office building was being demolished.

So he decided to find a solution.

“It’s basically about diverting unwanted furniture from demolition and dismantling projects and connecting it to non-profit organizations, charities and community groups that need to fit out an office and don’t have the budget,” he told ABC’s Tom Baddeley. Radio Perth.

“And it’s as simple as that.

It is not necessary to record the quantities of individual products, such as office furniture, sent to landfill in WA. (Supplied: The World’s Largest Garage Sale)

In less than two years, more than 123,500 kilograms of commercial furniture have been saved from landfill in Western Australia thanks to Mr Bateup’s GreenChair project.

Approximately 14,900 pieces of furniture have been distributed to 200 WA-based nonprofits, charities and community groups in desperate need of office furniture.

“A building owner called me and said ‘Look, I have 8,000 square feet of carpet in our basement – the carpet is being changed in our building and some of it is new. , in boxes again” and we got rid of the lot .

“We couldn’t believe it, we still had phone calls afterwards asking for the mat as it’s on a first come, first served basis.”

A row of black office chairs at wooden desks in an office.
Mr Bateup was shocked to see quality furniture sent straight to landfill after companies rebranded.(Provided: Unsplash)

Time management key to success

The Government of Western Australia does not currently have a specific program in place to recycle used office furniture, and there is no requirement to record individual waste quantities such as office furniture going to landfill .

According to the Department of Water and Environment Regulation, around 1.7 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste was generated in Western Australia from 2019 to 2020.

Of this number, 732,000 tonnes were recycled and 886,000 tonnes were sent to landfill.

A close up of a yellow bulldozer pushing trash into a pile at a landfill site.
Less than half of commercial and industrial waste recorded in Western Australia from 2019 to 2020 was recycled.(ABC News: Jessica Warriner)

Mr Bateup, who was named the 2022 Waste Champion at the industry’s WasteSorted Awards, said the success of the GreenChair program was in the timing.

“We don’t store this furniture in a warehouse,” he said.

“The trick of the model is to work with the industry – we’ve negotiated with landlords, building managers and builders – and we’re working it just in time, because it comes out of the building anyway.

“It’s a really effective process in that sense.”

From “dark and grimy” to bright and welcoming

Homeless Healthcare’s after-hours support center in Perth has been furnished by the GreenChair program which has transformed its former premises into a warm and welcoming space for those in need.

A cozy room with a curved stained glass window, white tables and red armchairs.
Homeless Healthcare’s after-hours help desk is now cozy and comfortable.(ABC News: Kate Leaver)

Zoe Thebaud, director of residential services for Homeless Healthcare, said the building was previously a backpacker hostel and was full of broken and mismatched furniture.

“It had a very dark, dirty, grim feel to it and was full of awful furniture that had probably been like this in backpackers for about 20 years,” she said.

“After cleaning it up, we had a big empty space that we wanted to host people in, but we didn’t have a budget for furnishings, and we had pieces that were given to us.”

Homeless Health Director of Residential Services Zoe Thebaud
Zoe Thebaud says the Homeless Healthcare Support Center in Perth was dark and drab before it was furnished. (ABC News: Kate Leaver)

“Thanks to GreenChair, we’ve actually received quite a few donations of practical, but also beautiful furniture, which has really made this place the therapeutic setting that it is.

“So instead of being kind of a cold, sterile environment with a lot of mismatched furniture, we actually had beautiful rooms, beautiful artwork, and cohesive furniture.

The Fremantle office of the non-profit group Plastic Free Foundation was also furnished by GreenChair.

Founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz said when they started the organization, they were “camping” in their office.

Four women seated in an office greet the camera.
Office workers at the nonprofit Plastic Free Foundation no longer use camping tables and chairs.(Provided: Rebecca Prince-Ruiz)

“Like all charities, funding is limited and we always try to make the most of any funding to achieve our vision to help end plastic waste.

“The donation of our furniture by GreenChair allowed us to do this while being part of our circular economy values.”

Company working towards a national office waste management solution

According to a study by private sustainability consultancy Edge Environment, Perth offices generated around 3,003 tonnes of office furniture waste in 2021, of which around 90% by weight was sent directly to landfill.

The company is spearheading a project called “Fit for Office”, an industry response designed to tackle office waste that at the end of the lease removal process.

“We will seek to engage stakeholders from across the commercial furniture ecosystem, including organizations like GreenChair, to co-develop an industry-backed product stewardship program to address this complex challenge.”

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