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22 April 2018
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When FMs are dealing with large items of waste, such as office furniture or redundant fixtures and fittings, one of the first ideas that comes to mind is to hire a skip or large container. But is there a better way? FM World spoke to people from the Furniture Recycling Group, WCRS and Premier Sustain to give the options available to FMs, as well as legislation to consider.

Credit: Shutterstock

12 May 2017 | FM World team

Q&A with Nick Oettinger, managing director at the Furniture Recycling Group

What are the cost implications for the FM/organisation?

Landfill tax has been steadily increased over the past 10 years, now at £84.40 per tonne, to encourage organisations to recycle waste instead. Choosing environmentally friendly methods of disposal and recycling rather than sending to landfill used to be more expensive, however, costs are now at a similar level with the continually increasing landfill tax.

FM organisations should therefore be investing in responsible methods of disposal to reduce the levels of ground pollution caused by landfill sites and improve their corporate image. Forward-thinking organisations will ensure budget is allocated for recycling processes at the start of each financial period.

Whose responsibility is it to solve the issue – the suppliers or the FM?

Disposal of bulky furniture such as mattresses and white goods is particularly problematic for FM companies offering their services to social housing organisations.

When FM organisations are considering suppliers of bulky items they should spend time researching their policies on recycling and disposal. If the suppliers don’t offer a reputable recycling service, then the responsibility falls on the FM organisation to ensure a recycling or reuse process is in place for end-of-life items. Having a contingency budget for this eventuality is essential to reduce the risk of unexpected costs.

What are the current barriers to achieving a circular economy – and would simply making it easier for the FM to recycle such items go some way to solving the issue?

Many organisations are unaware that partner organisations and processes exist for the recycling and reuse of bulky products. Many are still under the impression that mattresses, for example, are too large and complex to be broken down and recycled, much less reintroduced into the economy as new products.

A lack of traceability with circular economy processes is also creating a barrier, as organisations are unable to quantify their efforts and therefore unable to justify budgets for these activities. This discourages them from investing in recycling services and keeps them dependent on landfill as an easier solution.

Educating these organisations on the possibilities will in turn also go some way to solving the issue of landfill reliance.

Embracing the circular economy and building these practices into business activity also supports the ‘triple bottom line’ – another aspect that FM organisations should be educated on if they’re not yet aware of it. Triple bottom line accounting incorporates profit, people and the planet, also referred to as the three Ps, as opposed to a traditional single bottom line: profit. In other words, an organisation can choose to consider the social and environmental impact of its activities in the pursuit of profit and improve its corporate image in the process.

Focus on reuse

Ann Beavis, director of Honeymaker Ltd, looks at how businesses can evolve their business proposition to be more sustainable. 

“Recycling is preferable to landfill, but reuse should be the focus for FMs who are trying to minimise environmental impact and cost. 

“From my work with Premier Sustain, I have seen FMs disposing of office chairs because they are slightly broken and desks because they are looking for slightly smaller ones. 

“If they were focused on reuse these assets could be repaired or remanufactured with significant cost and environmental savings. There are a number of online portals that can facilitate reuse of redundant assets and a growing number of reuse and repair initiatives in the market place. 

“Consider setting reuse targets and using this as a catalyst to look at the bulky waste that arises and how that can be better managed through procurement and planning.”

broken chairs shutterstock
Ann Beavis: "I have seen FMs disposing of office chairs because they are slightly broken" (Credit: Shutterstock)

Compliance/legal issues to consider when recycling larger items


The Waste Framework Directive made it a legal requirement for all waste producers to treat waste in line with the hierarchy, following the principles of (in order of preference): Reduction, Reuse, Recycling, Recovery and Landfill. If you make reference to your Waste Transfer Notes you will note that there is declaration that waste producers have fulfilled their duty to apply the waste hierarchy required by regulation 12 of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011.

Regulations such as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations and Hazardous (Special) Waste Regulations will cover certain large items, such as fridges and other white goods. You can also visit the gov.uk website for reference material on the legislation (see link box).

If you work on a site with mattresses/beds, compliance criteria are in place for the manufacture of new mattresses, which needs to be considered by FM organisations when partnering with recyclers who manufacture and reintroduce new mattresses into the economy using recycled materials.

The National Bed Federation (NBF) code of practice states that all new mattresses must comply with BS7177 standards for fire resistance as well as containing clean, traceable fillings.

Waste not, want not


1. Where possible, start by identifying opportunities within the supply chain to cut waste and increase the life of an item. Produce a list of all the bulky wastes that you have and are currently producing. It may be necessary to carry out an audit of one of your bulky waste containers if this is a regular waste stream. 

2. Apply the waste hierarchy, first considering whether the item could be reused anywhere by your organisation. If you are a multi-site facility you may lack the mechanism to share this information. It may be worth setting up an internal database of assets going spare. Alternatively, online portals such as Warp-IT are useful networks in this instance. 

3. Verify if the bulky waste item would no longer be a waste if it was repaired, refurbished or remanufactured. Some furniture can be repaired or remade to near-new condition, so perhaps your waste is not a waste after all. Similar repair and refurbishment schemes exist for IT, M&E and a growing range of other assets. 

4. If your bulky waste item is still useable but not by your organisation, you can look at donating this to charity. The Furniture Reuse Network is a great point of contact, or take a look at Globechain or Freegle. This may take more effort than throwing an item away, but you are saving money, carbon and delivering social value. 

5. If steps 1-4 have been completed and the item is indeed of no further use, then it can be considered a waste. When dealing with waste items, identify the nature of the waste and whether it is covered by any waste management regulations. (See legislation box).

Many large items of furniture and fit-out waste can be recycled, including wood, metal, metal filing cabinets and carpet tiles, and solutions can often be found for even the most obscure items. 

6. Consider what bulky waste you are creating that could be leased/rented rather than bought. This will reduce waste and encourages manufacturers to design for longer life as they manage the output as a service not a product.

Graham Scott is senior key account manager at Waste Cost Reduction Services (WCRS)