Reuse: Cost Savings, Society, and Sustainability

Working as we do across the country, we know that almost every organization in education, healthcare, and the corporate world faces increasing demands to demonstrate Sustainability. At the same time every organization is under constant pressure to keep budgets down.  When there’s surplus furniture that needs to be disposed of, this conflict often comes to a head.  Managers and administrators want sustainable disposition options for surplus furniture, at the same time spending no more money than if the furniture is thrown away.

Liquidation is desirable, but generally not an option in a strong economy, and almost never an option with used school and residential furniture.  Giving furniture away locally is another option, but the time and cost are too much to take on, and in the end much of the furniture remains unclaimed.


This is still the “easy” option, but it’s expensive, and throwing usable furniture away flies in the face of Sustainability.  Disposal also creates a terrible impression among community members when they see good furniture tossed into dumpsters.


Some furnishings like metal desks, file cabinets and storage cabinets can be recycled for their metal content.  But it’s only a partial solution.


Reuse offers large environmental benefits and the greatest benefit to the community.  If it can be done at a cost that’s less than or equal to the cost of disposal, it’s by far the best option for surplus furniture.

Reuse: What’s the Cost Comparison

In projects across the country, clients tell us that reuse has the lowest overall cost.  Labor is the same whether furniture is disposed, recycled, or reused.  Administration costs a little more with reuse, because you’re treating used furniture as an asset, not a liability.  The real savings come in disposing of the surplus, where trailers shipped for reuse cost much less than dumpsters sent to the landfill.  Often the most cost-effective solution is to combine recycling of metal items for their scrap value with reuse of the balance that cannot be recycled.

A More Efficient Process

1 Trailer for Reuse = 3 to 4 Large (30 cu yd) Dumpsters

Loading a trailer for reuse takes about two hours, and is much more efficient than managing labor, containers, and transportation for multiple trips to a landfill or recycling center.  One trailer packed for reuse holds as much as 3-4 large “rolloff” containers, so there’s less traffic, fewer delays, and a safer project site.

Does Reuse Make a Difference?

Children in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, at desks sourced in Pittsfield, MA

Reuse saves money.  Reuse is good for the environment.  Reuse makes life better for some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.  The smallest environmental impact, the highest benefit to society, and the least cost.  Yes, reuse makes a difference.

The bottom line: By thinking and implementing reuse, every organization can achieve critical benefits for their community, the planet, and their budget.

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If you’d like more information about reuse or have surplus furnishings that deserve to be reused instead of thrown away, please use the Reply box to let us know, and we’ll get right back to you.

Why We Do This: Lilongwe, Malawi

Last summer we did a project with the City of Pittsfield, Mass. and Skanska USA. Skanska was the Owner’s Project Manager overseeing construction of a new vocational high school for Pittsfield. Skanska’s responsibilities encompassed demolition of the existing structure, including disposition of all furnishings.

Skanska was able to auction most of the vocational education equipment, but there remained nearly 3,000 unneeded and unwanted pieces of classroom, professional, and other furnishings, piled into the gym, the cafeteria, and clogging the halls of the old school. Skanska’s FF&E project manager John Bona knew about IRN, and he called.

Taconic High School, Pittsfield, MA. Student desks piled up, with nowhere to go.

K-12 school furnishings are among the most highly sought-after inventories for our charitable partners. Education represents the best route out of poverty for tens of millions of children, but it’s hard to get an education sitting on the floor, or writing on a wood pallet in your lap. Our partner World Vision welcomed the Taconic High School inventory, which they divided among recipients in five impoverished or war-torn countries: Haiti, El Salvador, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mauritania, and Malawi.

Let pictures speak for themselves. These are from a school in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, in south-central Africa. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. America’s per capita income is $60,000/person/year. Malawi’s is $1,200. This school received about 500 desks and other items from Taconic High School.

Are those used and unwanted desks from Pittsfield making a difference with a second life in a new home? Yes, they sure are.

Click here for a case study of the Skanska USA / Pittsfield project