Wherever we go and whatever we do, we generate waste. From the appliances and electronics we buy to the furniture and flatpacks that we assemble, we contribute to the ever-growing waste and carbon footprint that traces back to the manufacturing and packaging materials used to make, ship, and store the products.
When it comes to waste generation, you will almost always see furniture waste above the list.
To understand how this trend impacts the overall waste & recycling landscape, we brought together Australia's latest furniture waste statistics and see how it compares to the global perspective.
Australia’s Furniture Waste: In numbers
Fast Furniture & Household Furniture Waste
The word furniture is almost synonymous with households—and for good reason. The average household in Australia generates more or less 25kg of wooden furniture annually.
The Australian Furniture Association highlighted that fast furniture, albeit inexpensive and easy to transport, is meant to be used for short periods and isn’t meant to last for generations nor be repaired or reused.
Here are some fast facts on household furniture:
- Households discard almost 50,000 tonnes of wooden furniture at the kerbside every year.
- To put it into perspective, that’s the weight of 800,000 3-seater sofas, 1.65 million dining tables, 3.4 million coffee tables, and a staggering 6.85 million chairs discarded every year.
On the other hand, more Aussies are choosing to recycle and shift away from disposal. Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded that 38.5 million tonnes of waste materials have been recycled, a 2.34% year-on-year increase from 37.6.
Furthermore, 20.5 million tonnes of rubbish have been landfilled—a mere 1.9% drop from the previous year’s 20.9MT.
Office & Commercial Furniture
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water reported that Australia currently discards 30,000 tonnes of commercial and office furniture—95% of which end up in landfills.
It’s worth noting that Australia’s furniture industry has a long-standing reputation for sustainability and environmentally responsible practices.
However, the rise of fast furniture and cheap flatpacks from abroad and retail giants often expose the industry to unethical practices and a massive waste & carbon footprint.
Australia's Second-Hand Economy Rising
The latest Gumtree data shows evidence that more Aussies are participating in its ever-growing second hand economy. 42% of Australians are more likely to sell their pre-loved items through the second hand market now than pre-COVID seasons.
At the latest, the second hand economy amounts to $46 billion, roughly $3 billion more than any other year in the last 10 years!
Opting for furniture that is built to last and purchasing second hand furniture (while ensuring they’re not fast furniture) goes a long way in preventing useful materials and reliable furniture from ending up in landfills.
If you have household furniture that you want to dispose of or donate, you can call our reliable furniture removal team and we’ll be in and out on the same day.
Charity and the Online Marketplace: Refuge for Used Furniture
Aside from garage sales, charities and donations are major players in this second hand economy as they significantly help curb furniture from ending up in the dumps.
The latest estimates indicate that roughly 151,000 to 203,000 tonnes of home furnishings are being donated to tip shops. While there’s little to no data indicating what percent accounts for wooden furniture, charities warmly welcome any donations and activities that drive up the need for reused furniture.
Online marketplaces also offer a plethora of used yet reliable furniture, with the latest figures indicating that about 25 million tonnes of home decor and furniture are traded annually.
Overall, these statistics show a strong indicator that human behaviour is slowly shifting from disposal to reuse.
Mass-Produced Furniture Economy & Its Impact on Waste
Australia’s growing demand for mass-produced furniture will contribute significantly to the growing waste problem.
In 2024, an industry study predicts that the furniture market is expected to grow by 4.59% compared to the previous year, valued at $11.34 billion.
Living room furniture takes up the lion’s share of this market, with roughly $2.85 billion in market volume for 2024.
But what does that mean for furniture waste?
With the rise of flatpacks and cheap furniture, 85% of these materials are expected to end up in landfills—mostly since they’re built to last only a few years and have very short shelf lives.
Consumers, on the other hand, spend $1.5 billion on home furnishings. Since popular flatpacks and cheap furniture are made from engineered wood (chunks of wood glued together to form plies), they are difficult to recycle and repair.
As a result, fast furniture becomes problematic for recyclers and will often end up in landfills.
Australian Government Initiatives to Curb Furniture Waste
The Australian Government, not-for-profits, and advocacy organisations are all in on redirecting furniture waste from landfills.
These include supporting government-backed initiatives, such as:
Collectively, their goal is to prevent 30,000 tonnes of office furniture from getting discarded as waste. Office furniture is often reused and can easily be sold or traded in second hand markets—especially for new startups.
But when it comes to getting rid of old and damaged furniture, it’s often cheaper and better to partner with our reliable furniture removal team.
How Australia Compares to the US
From an international perspective, the USA’s waste crisis underscores the global scale. The latest data from the Environmental Protection Agency highlights the following fast facts:
- The US generated 12.08 million tons of furniture waste in 2018, a slight drop from 12.2 million in 2017.
- Only 40,000 tons of waste were recycled, a mere 0.33% of the disposed furniture and furnishings. A tad dent from Australia’s 42%.
It’s evident that fast furniture is among the biggest culprits to the US furniture waste crisis. With more people staying at home, it’s expected that people will order more office furnishings to their doorsteps, contributing to the already-hefty 8.5 million tonnes of furniture waste generated every year.
What you can do
Here are a few consumer-friendly tips to help prevent useful furniture from ending up in landfills and contribute to the overall reuse & recycling movement:
- Check out online marketplaces for pre-loved and well-built furniture
- Visit local thrift stores—you might find special furniture
- Research ways to renovate your old yet solid furniture
- If you have time, explore & learn basic woodworking or furniture renovation as a hobby.
- If you have woodworking experience and can source tools, consider building your own furniture.
- Ask your close friends/relatives if they have old furniture that they don’t want anymore.
- Partner with trusted furniture removal services that actively participate in local & government recycling initiatives.
All Gone Rubbish is part of a vast network of Australian recycling and disposal facilities, ensuring that recyclables are reprocessed as useful raw materials and that all rubbish is disposed of properly and responsibly.
We aim to curb as much rubbish from landfills as possible, and we’d love to be your same-day rubbish removal partner.
Furniture waste continues to become a growing concern in Australia and the rest of the world. However, recycling initiatives and efforts to reuse them in the country are heartening.
Moreover, the trend of furniture waste generation & recycling is largely driven by consumers. Our small acts and decisions to refurbish solid furniture rather than dump it and refrain from mass-purchasing fast furniture can collectively drive change.
Addressing furniture waste from its roots is a crucial step in curbing the overall waste crisis. For other rubbish types, stocking them at home may become hazardous for you and your family.