Cutting waste could boost EU furniture industry, new EEB study finds

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Möbelschnitzerei (Foto: zzt126 / Pixabay)

Bristol, UK — Improved refurbishment and remanufacture of discarded furniture can trigger up to 157,000 new jobs and save about 6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the EU, a new European Environmental Bureau (EEB) study finds. The study presents a range of policy options to improve waste prevention and resource management in the European furniture sector, which would in turn allow value recovery, economy growth and job creation while saving on resources and the environment.

The European furniture sector faces a number of challenges due to increasing raw material costs, poor turnover in its workforce and growing competitiveness of low-cost countries such as China. Despite this, every year 10 million tonnes of furniture are put on the EU market and about the same amount is discarded by businesses and consumers, the majority of which is destined for either landfill or incineration. Such a waste of valuable materials is a missed opportunity for the economy, but it also undermines efforts to transition to a circular and low-carbon economy.

The refurbishment and remanufacture of furniture guarantees that resources are kept in the economy rather than wasted in landfills or incinerators, which increases the amount of CO2 released in the atmosphere.

Among the most effective measures recommended in the report are:

  • Stricter criteria for Ecodesign, including restrictions on the use of chemicals to facilitate reuse, repair and recycling;
  • Better business models to cut furniture waste;
  • Incentives to take back discarded furniture and mandatory producer responsibility schemes;
  • Life-cycle impact information for procurers, repairers and recyclers as well as consumers.

Carsten Wachholz, Senior Policy Officer for Product Policy at the EEB, commented: “By avoiding furniture waste, EU policy makers can boost a market that was hardly hit by the recent crises and is part of our cultural heritage and style. But this will require the adoption of appropriate demand and supply chain levers to support a change across the industry“.

Alex Forrest, Senior Consultant at Eunomia and one of the report authors on behalf of the EEB, argued: “This report presents a compelling economic, social and environmental case for transitioning towards a more circular European furniture sector. Forward thinking brands are already thinking along these lines. We hope that the policy options and impacts highlighted in this study positively contribute towards development of wider circular activity across this important sector.”

The study „Circular economy opportunities in the furniture sector“ can be downloaded under eeb.org.

Source: Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd