Greener office fit-outs to boost recycling rates

Tonnes of waste from office fit-outs that currently wind-up in landfill could soon get a new lease of life thanks to a City of Sydney innovation grant.

The City’s support will help local company Edge Environment demonstrate how non-recyclable timber from office fit-outs can be converted into a new recyclable product.

Edge Environment will partner with the SMaRT Centre at University of NSW to transform the problematic fit-out material – potentially keeping tonnes of waste out of landfill and improving recycling rates generally.

Research by the City’s Better Buildings Partnership program and Edge Environment shows the average commercial tenancy is vacated or refurbished every six years, leading to tonnes of office fit-out waste winding up in landfill.

In Sydney’s CBD alone, around 25,000 tonnes of building strip out waste is generated every year – with research indicating as little as 5,000 tonnes of this is currently recycled.

Around 350,000 tonnes of engineered timber winds up in landfill every year in NSW alone, much of it generated from office strip outs, including workstations, cabinetry and partition systems.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City’s grants program encourages projects that reduce the use of water, waste and energy in businesses and the community.

“This could save thousands of tonnes of fit-out material from landfill,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We know our community wants to take action on climate change – supporting this innovative project is just one of the practical steps we’re taking to help reduce our impact on the natural environment.”

Edge Environment consultant, Blake Lindley, said office furniture made from materials such as composite timber, that has been laminated or glued, is notoriously difficult to recycle.

“We are committed to driving higher resource recovery in office fit-outs and with solutions now existing for most other material streams, engineered timbers remains our most significant challenge,” Mr Lindley said.

“We are working under the NSW Government’s EPA’s Circulate, Industrial Ecology Program, and in partnership with the Better Buildings Partnership.

“Our early research, in partnership with the University of Sydney, has indicated a useful product could be made from the office wood composite – keeping it out of landfill in future.”

The project will involve identifying the engineered timbers from office strip outs that currently go to landfill that could be recycled. This timber will be used to produce non-structural sheeting.

The City of Sydney’s $20,000 grant will allow Edge Environment to further refine the input and recycling process as well as undertaking product testing in partnership with industry.