Addressing the environmental impacts of fast furniture

Construction, Design, Sponsored Content

This is a sponsored article from member Australian Furniture Association.

It won’t be long before the sight of thousands of tonnes of furniture purchased during last year’s pre and post-Christmas sales will appear on Australian nature strips and pavements before heading to landfill sites that are already struggling to accommodate an annual deluge of furniture waste said Australian Furniture Association (AFA) CEO Ms Patrizia Torelli.

Torelli points out that, “Like Fast Fashion, mass produced, relatively inexpensive, easy to purchase and abandon, Fast Furniture will only be used for a short period before it ends up as landfill in a tragic cycle of buy and discard that has become a rapidly growing and immensely concerning consumer norm…Fast Furniture is viewed similarly as an affordable one-season fling that isn’t meant to last for generations, repurposed, repaired or reused – and in doing so, we are creating an untenable problem for the future.”

Consumption of Fast Furniture has dramatically increased in recent years due to a number of factors that reflect behavioural changes and living trends and nomadic lifestyles of younger generation consumers. With home ownership declining in Australia (in 1994-95 it stood at 71.5% and it’s now around 66% and falling) many consumers are only able to rent and tend to update their decor when they move from place to place…and abandoning old furniture in the process.

According to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, ‘Each year Australia generates 30,000 tonnes of commercial furniture waste, with 95% of this ending up in landfill.’

Here on Australian shores, Torelli highlights that “The Australian furniture industry has a well-deserved reputation for sustainable and environmentally responsible practices, but the viability of the sector is under threat from Fast Furniture produced overseas and made from cheap materials that are not meant to last – often using unethical practices and treatment of workers that expose them to harmful sawdust and carcinogens used in the manufacturing process”.

Implementing a circular economy approach could be a positive way forward. The circular economy is not a new concept, but it is a solution and different way of thinking and methodology that has been embraced by the AFA, its members that seeks to create products that last, eliminates waste and pollution and in doing so combats climate change and contributes positively to the environment.

This scheme will support the sector design out waste by embedding the circular economy principles of reuse, repair, recycle and improved durability across the supply chain. The Australian Furniture Association’s ‘Furniture 360’ project is working with the entire supply chain, including designers, raw material suppliers, manufacturers, importers and the charitable recycling sector.  In doing so, the undertaking will provide industry opportunities for sustainability and growth, with a ‘circular economy’ approach to how Australia manufactures commercial and domestic furniture. Furthermore, the circular economy approach will protect and create jobs, encourage new skills, make Australia’s furniture industry more resilient, influence buying habits and protect the environment. 

Although the Australian furniture industry has taken positive steps forward by adopting new processes, technology and sustainable practices, the missing link is consumer awareness and education. The AFA is taking action by calling on the government to initiate a campaign at all levels to educate and alert consumers about the impacts fast furniture has on the environment and planet, as most of these products use unsustainable materials and practices, cost local jobs, contribute to deforestation, and their short-life span and ultimate disposal significantly increases landfill waste. 

Find out more about this initiative and tackle these issues here.

Photo by Jiroe (Matia Rengel) on Unsplash

This is an article from a Member. The views and opinions we express here don’t necessarily reflect our organisation.

by Australian Furniture Association

This a sponsored post published on behalf of Australian Furniture Association.