800,000 items of furniture thrown away in London every year

Over 800,000 items of usable furniture are thrown away in London every year – with only one in 10 of them actually re-used, according to the London Furniture Re-use Network.

The first ever assessment of the scale of the furniture re-use sector in the capital has been carried out by London FRN as it celebrates its first year anniversary as the umbrella group for London's 14 community-based furniture re-use projects.


” There is a real interest among London borough recycling officers to improve re-use extraction from the bulky collections. “
– Richard Featherstone, London FRN

London FRN members last year collected 61,500 items of furniture from 20,000 households, redistributing them for re-use to 11,000 low-income families and single persons.

However, the group believes more than 300,000 disadvantaged homes in London have need for low-cost furniture, with much-needed good-quality items often thrown away by Londoners for no other reason than for being out of fashion or the wrong colour for a newly-styled room

With an estimated 2 million kitchen appliances also thrown away by London's 3.2 million households each year, London FRN believes the re-use sector has “a long way to go before we reach market saturation”.

Boroughs
Richard Featherstone, regional development manager for London FRN, said the group was now in regular dialogue with 11 London boroughs to explore ways to increase the number of items that are re-used.

He told letsrecycle.com that six projects had had “modest success” in clinching service agreements for pilot programmes collecting furniture and appliances for re-use.

Mr Featherstone said: “There is a real interest among London borough recycling officers to improve re-use extraction from the bulky collections. The existence of the London FRN to represent projects and the sector has been a significant factor in furthering the identity and credibility of the projects.”

London FRN believe no single solution exists for re-using furniture and electronics, with “no two boroughs alike” in their characteristics, which is where locally-based collection projects are needed.

Quality
One new problem that has recently arisen is that projects are no longer able to recycle items of furniture that are not good quality enough to re-use. Items like sideboards, dressing tables and wardrobes that previously went to wood recyclers no longer meet quality specifications for reprocessors, who increasingly require clean wood.

Mr Featherstone said: “On a small scale, this is a problem for the projects, on a large scale this is a problem for the local authorities who are losing serious tonnage.”

Related links:

London FRN

London FRN wants furniture makers, who currently produce items using plywood, melamine and chipboard, to redesign their furniture so that it can be recycled at the end of its use.

The Network will be celebrating its first year anniversary this evening in the London borough of Southwark, at an event highlighting the issues and prospects for London FRN's second year with community recycling organisations, local authority recycling officers, social services and housing officers.

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