Reducing furniture waste

Reducing furniture waste

Reducing furniture waste is becoming a big concern in the UK. 670,000 tonnes of furniture and 310,000 tonnes of textiles are sent to landfill every year by householders. A truly eye watering amount. Less than 1 in 10 consider having their furnishings repaired so they last longer.

I'm wondering why? When our shop first opened more than 20 years ago, we were selling antique furniture. Antiques were thought to be only for the rich, but we wanted to bring quality restored antiques into anyone homes and we wanted them to be affordable. As the years have gone by, we were having some rather horrid comments about our furniture being second hand. This had never really happened when we first opened, but some people just could not grasp the concept of old furniture being restored and re-upholstered to be used in the 21st century. The only thing second hand would be the frame. Antique furniture was upholstered using natural materials, so no toxic foam or man made fabrics. Very sustainable. If a piece of furniture lasted 100 years, then restored and re-upholstered, it has another 100 years life span. Antique furniture fell out of fashion, so we started making a range of our own furniture, based on traditional frames, natural materials, the furniture antique of the future.

We also started to sell mid century and Danish furniture as that what the market demanded. Many mid century and Danish furniture is beautifully designed and made, with some beautiful wood grain. It is all upholstered using foam. Now foam from the 1950's and 1960's is toxic which is why we have to legally re-upholster it. We recycle any metal springs, but quite often the foam has degraded so much, it just crumbles away. This has to go into our bin. Although we then re-upholster using foam, the foam now is much better than foam from the 1950s. It also lasts. If a mid century chair has lasted 50 years, then it has another 50 years life span. Upholstery doesn't last forever but hardwood teak, beech and oak can last for 100's of years. What you also have when buying restored is a piece of furniture which is unique. 

I do believe that many shoppers buy new because of their lack of understanding what re-upholstery actually means. To be honest, much of the modern mass produced furniture isn't made to be re-upholstered. That's not what the manufacturers want. If you look at a lot of cushions, there is only matching fabric on one side so not reversible. This means you cannot turn the cushions so they are likely to wear out quicker. Many cushions are not piped. Piping makes cushions sit better and look neater. This all adds time and cost to a piece of furniture which means a higher price. You do get what you pay for as the saying goes. Retailers want you to replace every 5 to 10 years and make some furniture so cheaply that it is cheaper to throw away and buy new. Its a cycle that many get into, but if you spend more and buy quality, it will last longer and therefore be better for the environment.

Only you can make that decision if you want a better future for our children and grandchildren.

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