29 May 2024, 16:09
By Furniture News Oct 20, 2023

New industry collective targets circular change

As part of its continued drive to positively influence how people shop, eBay UK, in partnership with WRAP, has launched the Circular Change Council, an action-focused homeware industry collective aiming to increase circularity in the furniture industry and help reduce furniture waste.

The industry-first collective features founding partners eBay UK and global climate action NGO WRAP alongside major brands including IKEA UK&IE, George at ASDA, Very, Sainsbury’s, Simba, Dunelm, British Retail Consortium and the British Heart Foundation.

The new council aims to increase circularity in the furniture industry and drive action to target the 22 million furniture items that are thrown away by citizens in the UK each year, with WRAP reporting more specifically that 190,569 tonnes of sofas (approx 4.8 million sofas) are discarded, as well as 33,178 tonnes of dining tables (approxinmately 1.1 million dining tables).

Beyond sustainable benefits, recent WRAP research shows that 20% of home furniture that is discarded is suitable for reuse. It says that by purchasing reused home furniture rather than brand new, households could save £2.37b, and avoid 62,255 tonnes of carbon emissions – the equivalent of taking over 28,000 cars off the road for one year.

The initiative is the latest in a series of activations from eBay designed to promote re-commerce and tackle waste, following its pre-loved fashion sponsorship of ITV2’s Love Island that saw UK’s consumer appetite for second-hand items soar, with +1400% more searches for ‘pre-loved clothes’ in 2023.

Most recently, eBay website searches for secondhand furniture have seen over +140% YoY increase, with top items being used kitchens, wardrobes, chests of drawers and armchairs.

To help drive further consumer demand in this space, the Circular Change Council will work with leading UK retailers to frame ‘non-new’ furniture in the most appealing way to help tackle common perceptual barriers.

Kumaran Adithyan, GM home, refurbished and electronics at eBay UK, comments: “There is a huge opportunity for the furniture industry to take on some of the challenges to help take steps towards a fully circular future. We are excited to partner with WRAP, to bring together likeminded and forward-thinking brands from across the industry, to form a collective that can drive and incentivise behaviour change at scale.

“There are some challenges we’ll work together to tackle - from stigma for buying second-hand, to the language and framing that we use around non-new items. For 28 years, eBay has been providing the platform for non-new items and driving circularity. Now is the moment for secondhand to shine. We intend not only to make it easier for consumers to find a good deal by buying non-new, but also to help to keep items out of landfill.”

Retailers have made positive efforts to reduce the impact of the industry. For example, Simba, via its mattress recycling and refurbishing efforts, and IKEA through its Re-shop and Re-use initiative, whereby customers can find pre-loved items. However, there is recognition that as an industry there is a chance to increase impact and address wider issues which can only be tackled through collaboration.

For retailers, a fully circular industry would make significant reductions to current returns models, which cost the industry up to £60b a year. The challenges facing the industry, as identified in early reports and consultations driven by the council, include making it easier for consumers to access pre-owned furniture from a trusted and reliable source, cost of returns, and complex recycling regulations that can result in more furniture being sent to landfill than necessary.

The Circular Change Council has been established to increase the circularity of furniture within the UK in areas such as: reducing waste, to put a halt to needless furniture waste landfill and promote greater circularity of furniture and its component parts; customer behaviour, to raise awareness of the value of secondhand furniture, which can be both cost-effective and convenient; and commercial viability, to help retailers and furniture businesses navigate the change to a circular economy model.

Harriet Lamb, CEO at WRAP, says: “WRAP’s partnership with eBay to form the Circular Change Council comes at a pivotal time. From sofas to mattresses, tables to garden chairs, furniture waste is mounting. It’s high time that we addressed the impact on the environment, as well as looking at how we can all as citizens create positive change whilst saving money, such as encouraging people to buy pre-loved furniture as they do with clothes.

"WRAP is chuffed to bits to be working with eBay, bringing our expertise and knowledge of convening businesses to tackle waste, as we have already in plastics and textiles. We hope to galvanise tangible actions, uniting key players in the furniture sector to work together and implement lasting change.”

Lyndsey Miles, head of business development at Dunelm, comments: "Dunelm are excited to be collaborating with other major furniture retailers to recognise the amazing value that still exists in returned and pre-loved furniture. We know that by working together we have a much better chance of changing mindsets and creating a more circular furniture industry."

Emma Reid, director of Sustainability at sleep tech firm Simba, says: “At Simba, we achieved a major milestone on our mission to become net zero by 2030, when we gained B Corporation status earlier this year. As the first UK-based mattress brand to earn the gold-standard accreditation, we create products using only recyclable materials or by refurbishing products.

“We are proud to be a founding member of the council, and are keen to overcome the challenges to a furniture circular economy. Through our new state-of-the-art recycling facility, in 2022 we recycled 6550 mattresses and refurbished a further 18,000 for re-sale. The not-for-profit mattress removal and recycling service is open to all makes and models, not just Simba, and guarantees that every mattress is properly and thoroughly recycled in a high-tech, accredited facility. Meanwhile, our refurbishment programme has extended the life of 71% of the mattresses received.”

Sophie De Salis, sustainability policy advisor at the British Retail Consortium, says: “We are delighted to be part of this important initiative, to supercharge circularity in the furniture industry. At the BRC, we are committed to supporting our members in their journey to net zero by 2040 through our Climate Action Roadmap. The Circular Change Council will help further our furniture members’ efforts to make the changes we all want to see.”

The council will reconvene at its next roundtable this month, before publishing its Forward-Looking Commitments for delivering action in its priority areas in 2024, with a view to launching pilot projects to help prompt wide-scale industry and consumer behavioural change.

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