Moving into a new home or renovating your old room can generate massive furniture waste. Damaged cabinets, broken cupboards, dirty textiles, white goods, cheap shelves, and old mattresses make up most of Australia’s furniture waste.
Unfortunately, Australia’s rising furniture trend is throwing thousands of tonnes of mass-produced DIY items into landfills and rubbish bins.
To put that into perspective, we brought together Australia’s latest furniture waste statistics. Read more about how the furniture trend affects solid waste recycling, removal, and recovery.
Furniture Waste in Numbers
If you’ve called a Sydney rubbish removal team or observed council clean-up days, you’ll notice heaps of wooden furniture, white goods, ceramics, and mattresses piled up on the curbside.
You may think that’s a lot of furniture waste. But how does that add up across a city?
A furniture rubbish survey of 2,500 residential properties across Australia’s metropolitan areas determined that a household throws away as much as 24kg of wooden furniture annually.
The survey also found that roughly 33% of furniture waste is textiles, sofas, and armchairs, while the remaining 67% is wooden furniture.
If we scale that figure to the Greater Sydney Region, a population of approximately 2 million households can generate as much as 48,000 tonnes of furniture waste yearly – both soft furnishings and wooden furniture.
In perspective, that’s roughly the same as disposing of the following every year:
- 1.65 million kitchen or dining tables
- 6.85 million wooden chairs
- 3.5 million coffee tables
- 800,000 sofas (three-seater)
More Households, More Waste
A business environment profile study conducted by IBISWorld estimated the number of Australian households to rise by as much as 1.2% for the 2021-22 period. That’s equivalent to roughly 10 million households in total.
The trend is a comparatively slow increase, mainly due to Australia’s weak population growth and the global health crisis affecting people’s economic capabilities to break into the property market.
However, the rise will affect the solid waste industry and collection services by as much as 3%. That’s because the increase in household population will lead to higher solid waste volume and demand for rubbish collection.
Australia’s Biggest Solid Waste Producers
A 2019 Australian Bureau of Statistics research found that the country produced as much as 75.8 million tonnes of solid waste – a 10% rise from the 2016-17 period. That means a person throws away as much as 1.4kg of solid waste daily.
Furthermore, ABS reported that about 38.5 million tonnes, or almost half of all waste generated, were recycled. The same study concluded that approximately 20.5 million tonnes of the total solid waste produced were disposed of in landfills.
The following are sectors that produce the most solid waste:
- Manufacturing industry: 12.8 million tonnes (16.9%)
- Construction industry: 12.7 million tonnes (16.8%)
- Households: 12.4 million tonnes (16.3%)
- Utility industries (Electricity, water, gas services): 10.9 million tonnes (14.4%)
Note that this survey is conducted only in Sydney and does not include solid waste and furniture sent by businesses and households for illegal dumping.
Mass-Produced Furniture Statistics
Australia’s cheap and mass-produced furniture significantly contributes to the annual furniture and packaging waste.
ABC’s War on Waste highlighted that roughly 85% of cheap furniture we pile on kerbs is sent directly to landfills and isn’t recycled or treated for recovery. In an era of fast furniture, IKEA stands on top as the country’s largest furniture brand and is driving the mass-production industry.
IKEA has a booming industry of mass-produced and cheap furniture – also called flatpacks. Flatpacks revolutionised the furniture industry since it’s portable and compact. You can put a dining table set and a few cabinets behind your pick-up truck with flatpack furniture.
As a result, over 900 million Aussies shop in IKEA stores and spend over $1.5 billion on furniture annually. Flatpack sales are at an all-time high that the largest furniture company can sell a bookcase or shelf every 5 seconds.
According to the World Economic Forum, 13.5 million pieces of disposed IKEA furniture can be recycled or reused. But because most Aussies don’t know how to repair broken furniture and prefer buying cheap and new ones, old furniture ends up in landfills to rot.
On the other hand, the same report showed that 34% of Australians prefer buying second-hand goods. This led IKEA to push repair and reselling initiatives to curb old furniture from getting trashed and recover useful materials from slightly broken furniture.
The sheer amount of furniture waste also impacts packaging and paper waste. A 2022 study by Sustainability Victoria shows that Australians produce about 2 million tonnes of packaging waste annually.
Government Initiatives: Facts and Figures
Good Environmental Choice Australia collaborated with Edge Environment and the Global Product Stewardship Council in tackling improper commercial office furniture disposal. The group received a $370,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment to fund the initiative.
The collaboration aims to prevent as much as 30,000 tonnes of usable office furniture from ending up in landfills yearly.
Additionally, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that businesses and households throw away more than 20 million tonnes of furniture waste annually – contributing to the 75.8 million tonnes of total solid waste stated earlier.
In a nutshell, GECA and its partners aim to maximise the use of office furniture and shave off 30,000 tonnes from the 20 million tonnes of furniture waste.
Office Furniture Rubbish: Wasted Resources
Office furniture and commercial waste account for considerable landfill waste by volume. That’s because about 50% of these materials end up in landfills, considering that 97% of office furniture waste and 90% of commercial rubbish are recyclable.
Moreover, ABS reports that the country is spending $17 billion on rubbish collection and treatment services, pushing the budget 18% higher since 2016-2017.
In hindsight, wooden furniture and office rubbish can be treated and recycled as sustainable packaging, recycled furniture, and even biomass fuel for energy recovery.
Over 1.25 million used and old mattresses are in Australia’s landfills yearly. These mattresses are usually foam or innerspring mattresses that are fully recyclable.
But the steep recycling costs make it inefficient and impractical to sell recycled mattresses at a lower price. That’s why most of them end up in landfills.
Textiles also take up a significant portion of landfill waste, with Aussies dumping 6 tonnes of old fabric every 10 minutes. In 2019, Australians threw away 250,000 tonnes of old textile, accounting for:
- Mattresses (3%)
- Household linen (18%)
- Leather items (9%)
- Clothes (60%)
Recycling remains an issue, with only 26% of total textile waste processed for recycling.
The furniture and office waste figures will only see an upward trend as Australia’s population, consumption, and industry trends evolve. There is a good chance that waste recycling and recovery will catch up to this rise, along with the demand for a greener and more sustainable solution.
Nevertheless, we can contribute to combatting Australia’s furniture waste and landfill crises by reducing our household consumption and repairing functional furniture to maximise their lifespan.
We also recommend partnering with rubbish removal services to reduce landfill waste and recycle household and commercial rubbish.
For your next rubbish removal appointment, contact us at 0407 125 125, and we’ll get in touch.