Reinventing office fitout waste as a valuable resource

A feasibility study has demonstrated how recycled timber product made from discarded office furniture could soon be used in Sydney offices rather than dumped in landfill.

In 2016, Edge Environment partnered with the Better Buildings Partnership on a study to find solutions for problem waste streams produced by the office fit-out sector. With further funding from a City of Sydney grant, Edge Environment will now deliver practical uses for a new engineered wood-based composite developed by the UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT Centre).

Sydney offices are refurbished on average every six years, with 80 per cent of materials removed from offices sent to landfill. The study identified the largest component of this strip out waste was engineered timber. Their study led them to the ground-breaking research being carried out by the UNSW SMaRT Centre, where Professor Veena Sahajwalla had been transforming wood waste from office furniture into new wood composite panels. Professor Sahajwalla said the SMART Centre’s wood composite panels were made entirely from locally sourced strip out waste and meet multiple environmental and economic objectives.

“We now have the knowledge we need to recycle wood-based office materials as they are removed and to transform it in to new products for immediate reuse – without using any new wood or toxic resins,” Professor Sahajwalla said.

“The small-scale manufacturing model means waste furniture can be recycled locally, enabling cities to reprocess their office fit-out waste immediately and to redirect back into new economic opportunities.”

Edge Environment Chairman and Co-Founder Tom Davies said he was proud to support the development of the wood-based composite.

“This innovation has the potential to solve a wicked waste stream. We’re excited to see this product develop from an idea to something tangible, which now has the potential to provide a sustainable solution to the office sector’s biggest waste dilemma,” said Tom Davies.

Using this wood- based composite products could divert a significant proportion of the estimated 60,000 tonnes of strip-out waste from landfill annually – and that’s just from properties in the City of Sydney area.

This feasibility study follows on from a number of other projects such as GPT’s stripout waste trial at Governor Macquarie Tower and UTS’s social sustainability stripout waste pilot that demonstrate the opportunity and capacity to achieve a shared goal long-term objective of zero-waste to landfill. Together, the Better Buildings Partnership members now target 60 to 80 per cent resource recovery during all office stripouts and refurbishments.

These innovations are demonstrative of an industry which is beginning to shift its thinking, where items once dismissed as landfill are now treated as a valuable resource.


Pictured, Edge Environment Chairman and Co-Founder Tom Davies at 580 George Street, Sydney.