Recycling, Refurbishment and Reuse of Furniture Achieves 43 Tonnes of Carbon Savings, Waste Reduction and Cost Avoidance for Hospital Trust
Our estimated £81,000 saving was down to a number of factors, the biggest being the rotation of surplus furniture to prevent us buying new. That said what we have saved just by giving something a new lease of life is not to be sniffed at. To be able to give our clinical teams the opportunity to keep some of their budget aside for other environmental improvements for patients is something I am very proud of.Annemarie Stone, Waste Officer, Black Country Health Care NHS Foundation Trust
Black Country Health Care NHS Foundation Trust was concerned with the amount of furniture waste ending up in landfill. The trust wanted to explore why so much waste was being produced and to look at how they could mitigate and reduce the waste volume.
Annemarie Stone, Waste Officer at the trust, led a project working with one of the suppliers on NHS Supply Chain’s Office and Outdoor Furniture framework, to cut down on waste and stop the disposal of redundant and surplus office furniture.
The project was rolled out between April 2022 and March 2023 and highlighted the refurbishment work done through the framework by the awarded supplier. The results were financial savings coupled with reduced environmental impact in the form of CO2 savings (emission reductions) and waste savings.
- To find a cost-effective way of reducing waste in the furniture category, while maintaining the quality, assurance and safety standards of the furniture.
- Explore actions and interventions to support the journey to a net zero NHS within the furniture category.
There was clear motivation to reduce the amount of furniture waste in the trust and this was informed by their 2021 / 2022 waste data. While some furniture disposal had resulted in energy recovery, there were still huge amounts ending up in landfills, resulting in an environmental impact and waste costs for the trust.
- In 2021 / 2022 at least 36 tonnes of furniture were disposed of by Black Country Health Care NHS Foundation Trust
- Approximately 23 tonnes were sent to energy recovery
- At least 13 tonnes were landfilled
- The approximate cost of waste treatment totalled £18,000.
Challenges and methodology
The challenge at the beginning of the project was to understand why so much waste was going to landfills and to identify the behaviours this indicated. Several issues were identified that were impacting the trust’s waste.
- The trust had a lot of surplus stock within their inventory – how could this be managed better to prevent further purchase of new items?
- Changes in colour schemes and designs within certain areas resulted in furniture items no longer being used. How could they be given a new lease of life?
- Some furniture was damaged or deemed a health and safety risk, could these items be refurbished?
To address the challenges around waste, the project lead at the trust engaged with a variety of stakeholders within the trust to assist with control measures. This included Capital, Estates, Procurement, and other departments to drive the project forward. The trust also used their internal communications channels to embed more sustainable behaviour with staff and affirm buy-in to the project.
The Black Country Health Care NHS Foundation trust opted to use the Office and Outdoor Furniture framework, specifically the sustainability lot. The trust engaged with a specialist supplier on the framework who they collaborated with to find suitable options and channels for waste.
The proposed solution to the trust’s waste problem was three-fold:
- Develop a re-use network – ensure stock is rotated to prevent buying new
- Upcycling existing furniture – ensures damaged furniture is refurbished to ‘like new’
- Donating to charity – extends the useful life of products and helps the local community.
The trust had a number of key objectives for the project:
- Keep it simple with inventory
- Use internal communication channels to share sustainability messaging with colleagues about rotating, recycling, refurbishing and not buying new
- Having a standard for furniture.
Upcycling was achieved by renewing existing furniture through reupholstery and rebuilding of foam or vinyl wrapping of hard surfaces that became damaged.
Impact in 2022 / 2023
CO2e emission reduction
Reduction in waste
- October 2021 – NHS Supply Chain created the Office and Outdoor Furniture framework, which included a sustainability lot, offering NHS customers a variety of services to reuse, recycle, upcycle, and repair furniture as an alternative to buying new.
- February 2022 – NHS Supply Chain’s Category Manager, Suzi Richards, presented the framework opportunity to an ICS Sustainability Group at the trust alongside suppliers who specialise in this area.
- Following this, the trust initiated the project with our specialist suppliers to discuss all viable options for reducing their current waste as well as potential savings that could be achieved.
- Trust waste officer, Annemarie engaged with stakeholders across the trust.
- NHS Supply Chain Category Manager was available to support the trust throughout the project.
- The framework ensures that warranties and safety standards are adhered to with all products that are repaired, renovated, or upcycled.
- The additional benefit of using these services was that on completion of the project, the awarded supplier was able to provide a report detailing all environmental and financial savings to the trust which can be useful for their Green Plan reporting.
Project outcome and results
The project has been an exercise in extending a product’s useful life and has been easy to coordinate via the service provider on the framework.
Reallocating surplus furniture has been a big win for the trust on many levels. This not only saves costs by avoiding the purchase of new furniture but also prevents the depletion of raw materials and the carbon emissions embodied through the life cycle of any new products.
Upcycling achieved significant financial savings and dispelled the myth that refurbished furniture would not look like new or meet the standards required for infection prevention and control. This has all been delivered through an approved framework route and has all the required assurances for any trusts interested in utilising upcycling and refurbishment.
Since the project has been concluded at Black Country Health Care NHS Foundation Trust, additional items have since been identified and refurbished, further reducing the trust’s carbon emissions and waste, as well as delivering financial savings.
Sustainability vlog – office and outdoor furniture framework
Sustainability Manager Steph Gibney sat down in front of the cameras with Suzi Richards our Category Manager to talk all things office and outdoor furniture and the links between recycling, sustainability and a circular economy. Watch the full vlog here.
Customers can contact us to learn more about what services are available through the framework and to ask us to consult with suppliers on their behalf. From this, customers are able to request we manage their projects.
Our Category Manager can also come along to talk about the opportunities this framework offers at various events and forums at trust or ICS level meetings. Please contact Suzi directly.
See our Useful Links section for further information about the products and services available via our framework.
Customers can also contact us directly to learn more about what services are available through the framework – and to ask us to consult with suppliers on their behalf. From this, customers are able to request we manage their projects. Alternatively, they can contact the suppliers directly to discuss their requirements.
Our Category Manager can come along to talk about the opportunities this framework offers at various events and forums at trust or ICS level meetings.
*Made up of costs saved through not buying new, reuse of surplus £61,365.00, upcycling £16,831.48 and the costs of skips prevented £2684.01 of cost.