We’ve all been there: walking past a pile of perfectly good furniture on the street and left shaking our heads.
Hundreds of office spaces are stripped out and re-tenanted in Melbourne every year, but for most tenants it’s often too time-consuming and confusing to figure out how to re-house their used furniture. On average, offices in big cities are refurbished every six years – with a whopping 80 per cent of materials sent to landfill.
Enter Sustainable Office Solutions.
General manager Isaac Bennett says his company was created to limit the amount of perfectly good office furniture going to landfill.
And demand for the service is growing strongly. The company is seeing a 50 per cent growth rate and has been hiring around four new staff every single week to keep up with demand.
The company currently employs 15 on-site staff, six management and 65 demolition workers to service the Melbourne metro area, with warehouses across Melbourne in Sunshine West, Laverton, and Footscray.
Businesses are really pushing sustainability and recycling, there’s been a big change in the industry in the last couple of years… Everyone wants to recycle.”
The biggest challenge, he says, is finding recycling companies that can take more specific broken items and materials.
Originally started in 2015 as an offshoot of Clean and Gone demolition founded by Brett Bennett and Daniel Mitchell, the company soon realised that a high percentage of office fitouts were high quality and did not deserve to end their lives in landfill.
It’s come a long way since, recently completing a partnership with ISPT to rehome about 80 per cent of furniture over 36 floors in the NAB building at 500 Bourke St, Melbourne.
That left 15 per cent of the furniture to be recycled and just 5 per cent ended up in landfill.
Once stripped out, high quality fitouts (things like furniture and carpets) are either sold in the shop, sent out to charities, or sold directly to companies in Melbourne.
His company’s most appealing offer, he says. Is to take this concern off their clients’ hands.
It eases the logistical nightmare that many businesses are too overwhelmed to take on at such a stressful time.
“Probably the biggest challenge in Australia is finding places to recycle items that are… broken, or could be made out of MDF [medium-density fibreboard] and chipboard that can’t be rehomed… There aren’t really many options in Australia for recycling more than metal, really,” Isaac says.
He’s happy his company can meet the challenge and there’s none too great. But the best offer is that his team searches for the right solution that is best for the environment, not just “ticking boxes”.
Think of the company like a go-between – facilitating the rehoming of office fitouts.
Helping businesses cut costs
The benefits aren’t just environmental. There’s also the financial benefit that a company can not only save the money they would have spent hiring a demolition company – they can actually make money. The recent partnership with ISPT earned the company $200,000 which was then donated to charity.
But the company doesn’t just cater to big corporations. They take on jobs for as little as $500 and “won’t turn down anyone – if someone’s got a two person office, it will still work out.”
An eye for style and quality
The other challenge in the world of sustainable office solutions is ensuring that high-quality pieces that are in good enough condition to be rehomed (around 80 per cent, remember), are pieces that businesses actually want.
It’s not just clothing that suffers from quickly changing fads. Unfortunately, the office can also fall victim to fast fashion.
“Usually workstations in back-to-back formations, white-top and sort of a modern look, are quite easy to rehome. Items that are more like ‘back in the day’ like beiges and browns can be a bit trickier,” Isaac says.
“Usually in that situation, we would resize the tabletops, and give it a bit of refurbishment as well.”
This company really has an eye for design and knows what items are worth it and what items just need a little bit of extra attention to get them up to scratch.
“There are a few brands like Herman Miller, Steelcase, Haworth, they sort of last quite a while. Even if they are 10 years old, just now, we can easily treat those items that have antique features to them compared to some of the cheaper low quality items that are really only made to last two or three years.”