A Complete Guide to Disposing of Upholstered Furniture in 2023

A recent change in legislation saw new rules come into effect concerning the waste disposal of upholstered domestic furniture.

Based on guidance from the Environment Agency, the new legislation states that upholstered domestic furniture can no longer be disposed of via landfill; instead, it must be incinerated.

In this guide, we’ll look at what the new rules mean for getting rid of your upholstered furniture and advise on the best ways to dispose of furniture in 2023.

Why Have the Rules Changed?
The Environment Agency has noted that waste upholstered domestic seating often contains persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These chemicals can have a harmful effect on the environment if they are not dealt with properly, so the legislation was changed to ensure they are safely disposed of.

What are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)?
During manufacture, upholstered furniture was often treated with POPs in order to give the fabric flame-retardant properties. Although this practice has not been used since 2019, upholstered furniture that was manufactured before this date is likely to contain these chemicals.

The problem with POPs is that the chemicals can remain intact for a long time. If upholstered furniture that has been treated with POPs goes to landfill, the compounds are in danger of polluting any surrounding ground, water and wildlife.

To ensure that POPs from upholstered furniture won’t pollute the environment, all waste upholstered furniture will now need to be incinerated instead of sent to landfill.

What Furniture is Included?
All upholstered furniture with fabric coverings and cushions is covered by this new legislation.
This includes:

  • Sofas
  • Sofa beds
  • Footstools
  • Armchairs
  • Floor cushions
  • Chairs
  • Bean bags
  • Office chairs
  • Futons
  • Sofa cushions

Furniture that is covered by leather, synthetic leather and foam is also included.

How Will These Changes Affect Us?
The change in legislation will influence a variety of sectors. Here’s a breakdown of how the rules will affect different industries:

Charity Shops
The changes in legislation shouldn’t affect donations to charity shops. Upholstered furniture can still be donated to charity shops as long as it is in sufficiently good condition to be sold on.
Problems may arise for charity shops if they receive donations that are not of good enough quality for resale. Some people may choose to donate waste upholstered furniture to charity instead of deal with it themselves.
This behaviour would result in charities having to fork out to properly dispose of upholstered furniture. It would also leave them with deadstock taking up valuable storage in the meantime.

The hospitality sector is likely to lose some time and money when it comes to disposing of upholstered furniture from now on.
Instead of getting rid of a broken chair or stool with other standard waste, special provisions will have to be made to ensure that the furniture does not mix with, or contaminate, other rubbish.
This will involve paying for additional services.

Members of the Public
Members of the public will likely need to pay a little more in order to dispose of waste upholstered seating.
Instead of simply taking furniture to the dump, it will be necessary to check if the appropriate facilities are in place to dispose of upholstered furniture. It will often be necessary to pay an additional charge for this service. Renting a skip is also a possibility and will cost money.

Waste Disposal Facilities
Waste disposal facilities will have to take on additional responsibilities to ensure that they are adhering to the new legislation.
This will involve retraining staff and putting new procedures in place. Additional protocol will need to be followed to make sure that upholstered furniture is correctly incinerated, in line with government guidelines.

Could we see an Increase in Fly Tipping?
Unfortunately, it seems logical that we may see an increase in fly tipping as a result of these new regulations.
Fly tippers are often looking for ways to dispose of furniture and appliances without paying additional charges. We will all need to be vigilant and report any cases of fly tipping to stop this becoming common practise.

How to Properly Dispose of Waste Upholstered Furniture
It’s one thing to understand the problems surrounding the disposal of upholstered furniture, but how can we legally get rid of unwanted upholstered furniture from our homes?

There are three main options:

1. Donate It
There’s no problem with donating upholstered furniture to charity shops or second-hand warehouses, so long as the furniture is in a suitable condition for resale.
POPs only cause problems when furniture is sent to landfill, so donating is a great option. This sustainable choice means items have another chance to be enjoyed in a new home.
Check with your local charity shop before donating your furniture. The furniture must be in good condition for resale; if a charity shop has to dispose of an unsuitable item, they will have to use donated money to get rid of it, taking funds away from their cause.

2. Use Certified Recycling Facilities
Many recycling facilities have had to adapt in light of the new upholstered furniture regulations. Waste upholstered furniture can be disposed of at the tip, so long as there is a separate skip provided for these items.

Check ahead to find out if your local recycling centre is providing this service.

3. Hire a Specialised Skip/RoRo
For large-scale jobs, you can hire a specialised skip or RoRo. This is useful for house clearances or commercial property renovations.

If the furniture can’t be donated, a skip will make it a lot easier to clear many upholstered items. When hiring the skip, specify that you need one for waste upholstered furniture. You will not be able to mix other waste in the same skip.


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