Drew Carmichael is the director of Scotland’s leading workplace furniture recycling organisation, Recycle Scotland. As a division of Space Solutions, Recycle Scotland provides sustainable and environmental furnishing strategies within the workplace.
We interviewed Drew Carmichael to understand more about Recycle Scotland and how businesses can benefit from recycling their workplace furniture.
What is Recycle Scotland’s mission?
Drew: With circular economy principles at the heart of our business, our mission is to help the business community make positive change and adopt sustainable practices. This means responsibly disposing of unwanted office furniture and sourcing re-engineered or used products whenever possible.
At Recycle Scotland, we find sustainable solutions for businesses who have excess or redundant office furniture, and we forge relationships with customers who have a desire to procure pre-used office furniture as a cost-effective alternative to buying new. Fundamentally, we help businesses drive greater levels of direct re-use of workplace furniture and other assets to achieve greater sustainability by tackling a big carbon contributor in the workplace – what to do with unwanted office furniture.
A fantastic example of this is from one of our biggest projects last year, which saw over 500 pieces of furniture from a single organisation go to 26 local Scottish businesses. As a result, we were able save 15,500kg of office furniture – the equivalent of over a thousand office chairs – from going into landfill.
Why was there a need to create a service for recycling furniture?
Drew: Workplace furniture has traditionally had a linear lifecycle, where it is bought, used, and then disposed of in landfill. This became the norm, with sustainable options being limited to charity shop donations or reselling on online marketplaces. While these are useful for small collections of home furniture, they aren’t a viable solution for the workplace, where items need to be disposed of in an ethical and sustainable manner to avoid landfill. When there is a procurement need, it is typical that the customer’s requirement is to ensure high quality, attain large volumes and competitive pricing as an alternative to buying new. This is where Recycle Scotland can add significant value.
We felt that there was needed to be a simpler, sustainable solution for the disposal of redundant office furniture and thus, in 2010, Recycle Scotland was born.
By reusing, repairing and remanufacturing workplace furniture, we can extend the lifetime of products to reduce waste and carbon emissions. In 2022 alone, we saved over 245,000kg of furniture from going to landfill – that’s approximately 22,273 office chairs.
How does recycling furniture benefit the business sector in Scotland?
Drew: The majority of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from the production, consumption and waste of goods and materials, like workplace furniture. But as businesses assess and scrutinise their own environmental impacts, one area they may be overlooking is the impact of disposing and procuring office furniture and progress towards net-zero.
With Recycle Scotland’s expertise and knowledge of the circular economy, we enable Scottish businesses to reduce their carbon emissions to meet their own targets while playing a key role in achieving net-zero emissions in Scotland by 2045.
How is Recycle Scotland different to its competitors?
Drew: We don’t just eliminate waste, we also create new opportunities for innovation and collaboration for businesses. By recycling and purchasing high-quality, affordable, pre-used furniture, businesses can continue to adapt to the diverse needs of their employees and clients.
Unlike other furniture recycling services, we also consider the whole lifecycle of a product to ensure that its purpose fits an organisation’s needs and if not, then re-engineering, repurposing or recycling to give it a new life. Therefore, we were able to reuse, recycle or re-engineer over 97% of all goods and materials we received last year.
Our team of experts proactively engage with businesses which, for any number of reasons, have excess or redundant furniture. This business is likely to have strong objectives around sustainability and circularity and have a desire to ensure the product remains in the economy longer than it might have been previously.
We also work with organisations which have a desire to procure sustainable, pre-used furniture as an alternative to buying new. These customers are typically in the process of assessing their requirements and require some guidance of how to source good quality pre-used sustainable office furniture.
Our consultative approach means that we find solutions that are truly circular – landfill does not come into the conversation at all.
What is the main challenge in recycling furniture?
Drew: For us, it is important that we engage with clients at the start of their office refurbishment process, to allow the right amount of time to source the best outcome. Organisations typically have their ideal furniture in mind, with exact specifications and quality requisites. However, this isn’t always feasible due to limited availability and timeframes.
Recycle Scotland is not a last-minute solution. We are a future market for the supply and demand of re-used and re-usable furniture assets. This remains our key challenge – engaging with clients at the beginning of their change process so that we can influence and add value.
What is next for Recycle Scotland?
Drew: We are looking to a future where all businesses in Scotland engage in the circular economy for office furniture and equipment. It is more critical than ever as we seek to meet the Scottish Government’s net-zero targets and protect the environment.
Last year, we worked with many businesses across the UK to recycle and reuse office furniture and we look forward to working with more organisations this year to help meet their ESG commitments and reduce their carbon emissions.
As well as supporting our customers to reduce their environmental impact, we too are continuing to strive for greater sustainability. Over the next year, we are taking action to reduce our carbon emissions by a quarter and by 2050, we hope to reach net-zero emissions across the organisation.