The Furniture Industry Research Association

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News Article

Furniture and the circular economy

A lot is being talked about the circular economy, a concept that will underpin many future legislative policies. It is clearly explained by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation (, but in broad terms a circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, as opposed to the more traditional economic model of using raw materials, making products and disposing of those products.
Put simply, as illustrated in the following schematic, a circular economy drives waste prevention through resource efficiency.

The circular economy rests on three principles:

  1. Preserve and enhance natural capital by, for example, selecting required natural resources wisely and choosing, wherever possible, technologies and processes that use renewable or better-performing resources.

  2. Optimise resource yields, that is to say design for remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling to keep components and materials circulating in, and contributing, to the economy.

  3. Foster system effectiveness by designing out “negative external impacts” such as reducing damage to human utility, such as food, mobility, shelter, education, health, and entertainment, and managing externalities, such as land use, air, water and noise pollution, release of toxic substances, and climate change.

The Furniture Industry Research Association is embarking on a programme of work based on the results of an industry survey that was carried out towards the end of 2015. The survey highlighted that almost a third of the 200 respondents were unaware of the circular economy and that only a fifth had a degree of circularity embedded within their businesses. Of greater significance, a high percentage felt that they would benefit from support and leadership if they were to ever fully embrace the concept.

The results of this scoping study were to be published in a short, technical report. However, it was felt that these reports can sometimes prove daunting, and be time consuming to digest.

Consequently, in an attempt to elicit greater engagement the results have been summarised in a ten minute presentation, originally given to FIRA Council members, which is available on YouTube using the following link:

The outcome of the scoping study is that, over the next two years, the Association plans to continue to work on a number of projects that will help to address some of the issues raised. These six projects (added detail appears in the presentation) are defined as follows:

  1. Furniture Resource Exchange Project
  2. Circular Economy Task Force
  3. Hotspot Analysis
  4. Circular Economy Benchmark
  5. Reuse & remanufacturing standard
  6. Product Stewardship Framework and EPR scheme

For further information please email