A man in a black suit jacket and white shirt stands under a tree with yellow leaves.

How Gordon’s simple idea saved over 120,000kg of furniture from landfill

After 20 years in the construction industry furnishing corporate offices, Gordon Bateup was tired of seeing perfectly usable office furniture sent to landfill simply because it was out of fashion, or because an office building was being demolished.

So he decided to come up with a solution.

“Essentially, it’s diverting unwanted furniture from demolitions and de-fits and connecting with nonprofits, charities and community groups that need to furnish an office and don’t have the budget,” he told Tom Baddeley on ABC Radio Perth

“And it’s that simple.

It is not mandatory to record quantities of individual products, such as office furniture, sent to landfill in WA. Delivered: The World’s Largest Garage Sale

In less than two years, Mr Bateup’s GreenChair project rescued more than 123,500kg of commercial furniture from a landfill in Western Australia.

About 14,900 pieces of furniture have gone to 200 WA-based nonprofits, charities and community groups in urgent need of office furniture.

“A building owner called me and said, ‘Look, I have 8,000 square feet of carpet in our basement – ​​the carpet is being changed in our building and some of it is new, still in boxes’ and we got rid of the lot.

“We couldn’t believe it, we still got calls after that that we wanted the carpet because it works on a first come, first served basis.”

A row of black office chairs near wooden desks in an office.
Mr Bateup was shocked to see quality furniture sent straight to landfill after companies changed their brand names.Supplied: Unsplash

Time management key to success

The WA government does not currently have a specific program for recycling used office furniture, and there is no requirement to record amounts of individual waste products, such as office furniture sent to landfill.

According to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, approximately 1.7 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste was generated in Western Australia between 2019-2020.

Of this, 732,000 tons were recycled and 886,000 tons went to landfill.

A close-up of a yellow bulldozer pushing garbage into a landfill.
Less than half of the commercial and industrial waste recorded in Western Australia in 2019-2020 was recycled.ABC News: Jessica Warriner

Mr. Bateup, who was named the 2022 waste champion at the industry’s WasteSorted Awards, said the success of the GreenChair program was in the timing.

“We don’t store this furniture in a warehouse,” he said.

“The trick with the model is to work with industry – we’ve negotiated with owners and building managers and builders – and we finish it just in time, because it’s coming out of the building anyway.

“In that sense, it’s a very efficient process.”

From ‘dark and dingy’ to bright and welcoming

Homeless Healthcare’s after-hours support center in Perth was equipped by the GreenChair program, which transformed their old premises into a homely, warm space for those in need.

A cozy room with a curved stained glass window, white tables and red armchairs.
Homeless Healthcare’s out-of-hours support center is now cozy and comfortable.ABC News: Kate Leaver

Zoe Thebaud, director of Homeless Healthcare, said the building had previously been a backpackers’ hostel and was full of broken and mismatched furniture.

“It had a very dark, dirty and grim feel to it and was full of awful furniture that was probably like that in backpackers for about 20 years,” she said.

“After we cleaned it, we had a big empty space where we wanted to welcome people, but we didn’t have a furniture budget, and we had bits and pieces that were donated to us.”

Homeless Healthcare Director of Residential Services Zoe Thebaud
Zoe Thebaud says the Homeless Healthcare Support Center in Perth was dark and dingy before it was furnished. ABC News: Kate Leaver

“Through GreenChair, we’ve actually received a lot of donations of practical, as well as beautiful, furniture that really made this place the therapeutic setting it is.

“So instead of it being kind of a cold, sterile environment with a lot of mismatched pieces of furniture, we actually had beautiful pieces, some nice artwork and consistent furniture.

The office of the non-profit group Plastic Free Foundation in Fremantle has also been set up via GreenChair.

Founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz said when they started the organization, they “camped” in their office.

Four women sitting in an office wave to the camera.
Office workers of the non-profit Plastic Free Foundation no longer use camping tables and chairs.Delivered: Rebecca Prince-Ruiz

“Like all charities, funding is tight and we are always trying to make the most of any funding to work towards our vision to end plastic waste.

“The donation of our furniture by GreenChair allowed us to do this while aligning with our values ​​for a circular economy.”

Company working on national solution for office waste

According to research by private sustainability consultancy Edge Environment, offices in Perth produced approximately 3,003 tons of office furniture waste in 2021, with an estimated 90 percent of the weight going straight to landfill.

The company is leading a project called ‘Fit for Office’, an industry-led response designed to tackle the office waste created by stripping the end of the lease.

“We will seek to engage stakeholders across the commercial furniture ecosystem, including organizations such as GreenChair, to co-develop an industry-supported product management plan to address this complex challenge.”

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