Where does the furniture end up when you recycle with us?
After recycling over 1000kg of furniture waste during our one-month trial recycling incentive, you might have spotted that we decided to make furniture recycling into its own service for our customers. Curious to see exactly what happens to the furniture we recycle, we jumped in the car, put together a (fantastic) playlist and drove 6 hours north to The Senator Groups global headquarters in Accrington. This where we recycle all of your packaging and furniture waste through their Sustain recycling facility.
What is ‘Sustain’?
Sustain is a flesh and blood example of The Senator Groups ongoing commitment to sustainability. Nestled between their seating and desking factories, this is where they strip down and separate your furniture and packaging so that the valuable resources can be saved from landfill, and eventually go on to have a new life.
Fully licensed to recycle waste material, The Senator Group are a shining example of how a UK based company went one step further than carbon neutral to carbon negative. This means that they don’t just offset their carbon footprint, they’ve actually reduced their carbon footprint below 0.
How did they do it?
We were in awe of The Senator Groups’ entire operation. Becoming a carbon negative company doesn’t come from ‘please turn off the lights stickers’, it’s a commitment that’s come from the people and the core of the company. We saw this echoed throughout from the office to one of their numerous manufacturing sites.
In their offices, there is no option but to recycle with battery recycling terminals and separated waste bins. Other than a few core pricelists, we were hardpressed to spot any unnecessary paper as they provide double monitor screens for referencing.
During production, sustainability is interwoven throughout the manufacturing process. Using state of the art technology, they are able to map out and cut materials to minimise any waste, power their LED lights with rooftop solar power and recycle and treat water that they use in their colour spraying process.
In the Sustain recycling facility, the furniture is stripped by hand to salvage the fabrics, foams, wood, plastic and metals:
” Each different type of board is unscrewed or removed from the other components and then recycled. Board, Melamine Faced Chipboard, Medium Density Fibreboard or pure timber, is recycled in several different ways.
Around half the wood recycled is typically used in a large Biomass Boiler in Middlesbrough to generate green energy or as a source of fuel for Biomass Boilers in larger Hospitals around the UK. Approximately 15% of the recycled board is hogged then shredded and used for animal bedding, and the remaining 35% is used in the manufacture of new board panels, creating a closed-loop recycling system for desktops.
The furniture recycling operation accounts for over 1,000 tonnes of wood being recycled each year, which comes at a huge cost to Senator. It is hoped that this cost will be reduced as the operation grows in the future, and so the cost of recycling furniture will then be subsequently reduced to all involved.”
Any plastics in office furniture will usually be one of the following polymers: PVC, Polypropylene, Nylon and Polyurethane, although they may all look the same they have individual properties which make them useful for different components. All the different plastics are removed from the furniture, their polymer identified and then segregated accordingly. Hard plastics are all granulated by local re-processors and turned into plastics granules or pellets. These can then be extruded into whatever product is required by the plastics processors, including components for new office furniture.
“Metal in the furniture is separated from the other materials using handheld power tools. The main two metals used in office furniture are Aluminium and Steel, both of these metals can be recycled many times, and so it’s very important that none are thrown to landfill.
Senator has five different skips for segregating the different types of metal used in office furniture. Senator also has a bespoke gas strut decommissioning machine, which converts the gas stem in a chair into an inert lump of steel, with the gas being safely released”.
“All fabric on chairs and screens is stripped away and collected. This fabric is then segregated and transported back to Senator’s packaging recycling facility where it is baled together with waste fabric from Senator’s new furniture production. Despite fabric being very light Senator recycles around 50 tonnes of fabric each year.
Fabric recycling is a time consuming and costly process, (it actually costs far more than landfill) but is a requirement in the furniture recycling operation. The fabric is shredded and broken down into individual fibres, and this recycled fabric is used for carpet underlay or as filler for sporting equipment (typically punch bags).”
“Senator can recycle all forms of packaging used in the furniture industry, consisting of cardboard, paper, novafoam, shrink wrap, bubble wrap, stretch wrap and all forms of expanded polystyrene”.
The Senator Group is a perfect example of how businesses of all shapes and sizes can follow suit and become more sustainable. It’s never been more important and we’ve never been so inspired to make tweaks to our own business to reduce our impact on the planet. Find out more about our recycling scheme here or give us a call on 0330 332 0880 to chat with us about sustainable furniture options.