Fast furniture: zooming down the highway at 75 mph in the back of a moving truck. Just kidding. The term fast furniture refers to furniture built quickly and cheaply with materials that are not meant to last. The fast furniture phenomenon causes problems for the environment and reuse in a number of ways:
WASTEFUL. The idea of fast furniture is in itself wasteful: cheaply-made, trend-driven pieces that are not meant to be used for a long period of time. According to the EPA, Americans threw out over 12 million tons of furniture in 2018. That’s compared to around 2.2 million tons in 1960!
DIFFICULT TO RECYCLE. Fast furniture uses a variety of materials in its construction. Some of the materials are recyclable and some are not, so the furniture more often goes to the landfill. In 2018, that amounted to over 9.5 million tons of trash.
EASY TO DAMAGE. The cheap materials used to construct fast furniture are not durable. Particle board and MDF are both susceptible to water damage (they will swell up and warp when wet), the veneer can easily chip, and the furniture can loosen over time because the materials don’t hold screws well.
DIFFICULT TO REPAIR. When the veneers chip or pieces break, the furniture is difficult to repair because the MDF or particle board will not stain or match the grain pattern of the veneer.
CONTAIN CHEMICALS. Both MDF and particle board contain chemicals including formaldehyde, which can cause cancer and other health problems.
Remember that “the greenest object is one that already exists!” By choosing a salvaged piece from a reuse warehouse, you’re saving the destruction of natural resources needed to make another and saving the energy needed to transport and process those resources into building materials.
If you must buy a newly-made piece of furniture, choose pieces built to last with sustainable materials. Then when you’re finished with your furniture you can donate your still-functional piece to a reuse warehouse and help its next owner avoid buying new.
Thank you for choosing slow furniture and supporting your hometown reuse warehouse and the green economy!
Every time you donate or shop at Community Forklift, you’re helping us lift up local communities through reuse. We turn the construction waste stream into a resource stream for communities in the DC region – by keeping perfectly good items out of the landfill, preserving historical materials, providing low-cost building supplies, and creating local green jobs.