Is fast furniture a threat to sustainability in Australia?
Consumption of fast furniture has dramatically increased in recent years due to a number of factors that reflect behavioural changes and living trends and nomadic lifestyles of younger generation consumers.
And it will only be a matter of time before thousands of tonnes of furniture purchased during last year’s pre- and post-Christmas sales will be heading to landfill sites that are already struggling to accommodate an annual deluge of furniture waste, says Australian Furniture Association (AFA) CEO, Patrizia Torelli.
“Like fast fashion which is mass produced, relatively inexpensive, easy to purchase and abandon, fast furniture will only be used for a short period before it ends up as landfill in a tragic cycle of buy and discard that has become a rapidly growing and immensely concerning consumer norm,” she says.
“Like fast fashion clothing that’s made to be discarded after only a few wears, fast furniture is viewed similarly as an affordable one-season fling that isn’t meant to last for generations, repurposed, repaired or reused―and in doing so, we are creating an untenable problem for the future.”
Indeed, with home ownership declining in Australia (in 1994-95 it stood at 71.5 per cent and it’s now around 66% and falling) many consumers are only able to rent and tend to update their decor when they move from place to place…and abandoning old furniture in the process, she adds.
“The Australian furniture industry has a well-deserved reputation for sustainable and environmentally responsible practices, but the viability of the sector is under threat from fast furniture produced overseas and made from cheap materials that are not meant to last―often using unethical practices and treatment of workers that expose them to harmful sawdust and carcinogens used in the manufacturing process.”
The circular economy is a different way of thinking and methodology to tackle fast furniture by eliminating waste and pollution and contributing positively to the environment.
Furthermore, the circular economy approach will protect and create jobs, encourage new skills, make Australia’s furniture industry more resilient, influence buying habits and protect the environment, says Torelli.
“The Australian furniture industry has taken significant and positive steps forward to position the sector for the future by adopting latest technology, processes and environmentally sustainable practices.”