Can garden furniture be recycled?

Last month we touched on the subject of up-cycling in our Can I spray paint my garden chairs? article. In fact, we’ve done a number of posts that look at how you can make do and mend, however, one area we’ve not looked at is can garden furniture be recycled? 

At Lazy Susan we will often donate excess or discontinued new stock to charities such as the British Heart Foundation, St Wilfrid’s Hospice and Business2Schools

I suppose this could be considered a form of garden furniture recycling? They take this garden furniture and it can be sold in their high street stores to raise funds, or in the case of B2C, redistributed to schools for use in the classroom, etc.

...But what if you’ve recently purchased a new garden furniture set from Lazy Susan? You’ve an old set that is still in good condition but just fancied a change? 

Most people will load that old set into the car, take it to the local waste recycling centre, and into the metal, wood or household waste skip it goes.

Is there another option? Can you too donate and recycle that old garden furniture? 

We thought it would be nice to share some of our suggestions, provide details of the charities we like to support as part of our Do Some Good campaign.

Hopefully, we can maybe introduce you to a new idea or maybe a charity to support?

Why should you recycle old garden furniture?

Before I go into the how and who, I thought a bit of why we should look at recycling would be beneficial. Why we feel it is important that we all look to dispose of our old, unwanted items of outdoor furniture responsibly.

According to Friends of the Earth:

“We need to drastically improve our recycling habits – both at home and in schools and workplaces. The UK's overall recycling rates for everyday waste are still below the EU target of 50%. The plastic bottle recycling rate in the UK is about 45%, which falls short of the 90+% rate in Germany and Sweden.” 

And it is important because we need to be:

  1. Conserving natural resources
  2. Protecting ecosystems and wildlife
  3. Reducing demand for raw materials
  4. Saving energy 
  5. Cutting climate-changing carbon emissions
  6. Cheaper than waste collection and disposal
  7. Creating jobs

You can read more about how best to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and the reasons why in their article the 7 benefits of recycling.

According to Statista

“In 2019, UK households purchased approximately 17 billion British pounds worth of furniture and furnishings, an increase on the previous year of roughly one and a half billion British pounds.”

In our own industry, Horticulture Week estimated that; “the UK Garden Furniture & BBQ market would top billion in 2020”, that all equates to us buying a lot of new garden furniture. 

The exact figures for last year are not yet available but based on Lazy Susan’s sales, I’d be surprised if that figure wasn’t reached, possibly surpassed as the lockdowns had us at home and spending on our gardens...

So the question remains, what are we doing with all that old garden furniture?

How you can recycle your old garden furniture?

Of course the obvious option is the one we just mentioned, you can send that old garden furniture to your local Council Recycling Centre or call them up and request their Waste Collection Service.

They usually charge around £10/20 per item for collection, and it can be handy if you have a piece of garden furniture too big or heavy for the car. 

All you do is book your slot and ensure the item is outside the front of your property for them to collect at the allocated time.

If you can take the pieces yourself, then your Local Recycling centre is designed to be more than just the place you can dispose of it. 

Most are divided into skips for each material, so the metal garden furniture will go in the metal, the timber in timber, etc, so you’re recycling rather than just throwing it away.

However, too often with this route, that old furniture (especially if it is resin or poly-rattan for example) still ends up in a landfill. 

This isn’t always the best or only option, and since most of these items can be recycled or reused, there’s some great alternatives to just getting ‘rid’…

Who can recycle your old garden furniture with?

There’s now a number of different ‘green’ ways you can recycle old garden furniture. 

These include recycling, of course, but there is alternatives such as repurposing, selling, or even donating them to a good cause. 

We just want to maybe present a few options that you had’t thought of, recommend a few charities (or examples of in the case of those operating in a region) that we’ve supported ourselves with old/new Lazy Susan stock.

1. Recycle

I’ll start with the obvious of recycling. 

If your garden furniture is constructed from wood or metal for example then the obvious option is just to take it to your local waste/recycling facility. 

You’ll find further advice on this over at RecycleNow.com.

RecycleNow is the national recycling campaign for England, supported and funded by the Government, managed by WRAP and used locally by over 90% of local authorities. 

Their Website contains information on what you can recycle and where, so it’s a great starting place.

Another option is to find an independent recycling service. 

You tend to find that many work in conjunction with your local council, however, they’re often independent and their efforts are working for the greater good of the local area or to support a particular charity. 

This great article on the Independent looks at the whether or not recycling is really worth our time? 

As they say; “we’re forever being told to reduce, reuse and recycle. But in the face of impending global climate catastrophe, is it all just an exercise in futility?”

The article highlights that the industry also has its fair share of rogues, and as I mentioned before, materials you think are being recycled still end up in landfill. 

I would encourage all who read this post to please also read Katy Wheeler’s piece for the Independent.

My advice would be, before you recycle, find out what they do with the specific material your garden furniture is made from, and how what they are doing benefits either your local community or is supporting a charity. 

It just pays to do a little research. A quick phone call or web search is usually all it takes.

If in doubt, then GreenMatch.co.uk have also compiled a comprehensive list of the Top 50 Recycling Websites

This is the people that are active in renewable resources and ethical recycling, so you’ll be sure they’re doing the right thing with that old garden furniture. 

2. Donate

If that garden furniture still has life in it, then there’s a number of alternatives to just recycling. 

First up, why not donate it to a good cause? 

Donate it to charity or give it to someone who needs it? 

This is something we’ve done at Lazy Susan a number of times. 

When we discontinue ranges, we often have stock in our warehouse. We often need to make space for new, so we have the option of discounting and selling it off in Clearance section, or we can donate it to a charity that can then sell to raise funds or make use of. 

Our recent Garden furniture donation to the British Heart Foundation & Business2Schools article best highlights how we’ve most recently done this.

Donating often comes down to a question of condition though. 

A charity can only resell if it is a piece that people will want to buy. 

However, there’s also a number of websites, such as Freecycle for example, that allow you to list unwanted items that people can collect from you if they’re interested. 

Freecycle is a global network of grassroots and entirely nonprofit people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their local area. 

It's all about reusing items and keeping the good stuff out of landfill.

Again, it’s just a case of a little research/effort to find somebody who can make use of it. 

I myself have donated a number of pieces of garden furniture to a Women’s Refuge charity local to me. 

They were more than happy to take away and redistribute for me. The pieces were used but I cleaned them up. Just start by taking a few pictures and reach out.

3. Sell

If you don’t want to donate then why not sell? 

Even if the furniture isn’t in the best of condition, one persons trash is another persons treasure as they say. 

My partner is an active eBay’er and I’m often surprised at not only what people will buy but what they’ll pay.

But all joking aside, if you can sell it, why not? 

You'll make a little money and give the furniture a new home. That’s definitely better than it ending up in landfill. 

Even if the condition is poor, as long as you’re honest about that fact in your listing, show photos of any damage, then people will often purchase to then refinish/repurpose themselves.

4. Upcycle

If on the other hand you have the DIY skills, or even if you just fancy giving it a go, then why not upcycle? 

Make do and mend. Take that tired looking piece of garden furniture and give it a new lease of life. 

Alternatively, take it to a professional furniture restoration company, and get them to do it for you. They can get most metal and timber items looking like new again as long as there's no severe rust of rot.

With a little imagination you can take that old faded garden bench and turn it into something new and different. Be brave, experiment with colour, really make a statement, something you want to keep in your garden. 

This blog has a How To section that features a number of articles on how you can restore and revive old garden furniture, from respraying garden chairs and tables to refinishing old seat cushions, we’ve covered it all.

5. Reduce

And, finally, start by choosing quality furniture that won’t need recycling. 

Our industry has been guilty of being a little fad driven. It is something we’ve tried our best to avoid at Lazy Susan

It is something you hear a lot in the clothing industry with the phrase ‘fast fashion’ but the same applies in the garden furniture industry (and wider furniture industry) too.

Much of the furniture we see, and it’s the large high street/DIY stores that are often guilty of this, is only designed for a summer or two. 

It is on trend and looks great for a short period. However, it just isn’t designed to stand up to the elements. They want you to replace in a few years, and before you know it they’re enticing you to buy new with the latest rattan sofa set at 30% off.

Go for quality pieces of garden furniture that will last you 10 years plus or longer and are easy to clean and maintain. 

It will save you money in the long term and is better for the environment. 

Charities that accept garden furniture donations

If you have old garden furniture you’re looking to replace and get rid of, then my advice is to get in touch with one of the following:

Reuse Network 
The Reuse Network website should be your first stop, as they are an umbrella organisation for charities all over the UK who accept furniture donations t help people in crisis.

Emmaus 
Emmaus is an organisation with branches across the UK who accept donated furniture to help homeless people. They will sell items or up-cycle them if they need a bit of TLC. 

Recycle Your Furniture 
Recycle Your Furniture is based in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne and they’re a great example of a local recycling initiative doing some great things. They have a workshop where you can donate furniture and maybe find the piece of furniture that you are looking for too.

Reviive 
Reviive is another fab social enterprise which takes in donated furniture, repairs and refurbishes it, and sells it to raise funds for various local charities. Based in Shropshire, they make it really simple for you to donate your furniture by collecting, upcycling and selling to raise funds for local charities.