Yeah, Nah, Not Vibing with Fast Furniture22 November 2020
Recently, while moving in with my parents to a faraway suburb, I realized that I’d bought waaay too many books during my time alone at university. The point was: I needed a bookshelf. So, I went to Target—saw an 8-cube storage unit—39 dollars only—great reviews online—sweet!
And Target isn’t catfishing us either, because the product looked pretty much like the picture they had online! Here’s a picture of myshelf (huhu):
After spending an evening constructing the shelf and organising my books, I realised that it was wobbly— the “wood” was so cheap that the screws had managed to make more room for themselves with every push. So, I stood back with my hands on my hips, and told myself: “that’s alright, it was just $39 anyway— I’ll just not take it with me the next time I move out!”
Now, here is the problem. Most of Australia is standing in front of their wobbly-but-trendy furniture, hands on their hips, thinking that it was cheap anyway, and that they will just not take it with them when they move out.
To understand why people dispose of their furniture, a 7-hour observation was carried out at the Haraldrud recycling station on a busy Saturday in 2016. The 410 cars that visited the station were asked: “Why?” Most interviewees answered that their furniture was worn and unfashionable, or that they no longer had any use for it. None of the interviewees had tried selling or giving away their furniture, of which five believed that no one would want it, and four found it too time-consuming to arrange. People seem to feel uncomfortable giving away used furniture as the receiver might find it insulting to receive an item rejected by the giver.
According to Kevin Morgan, MD of EC Sustainable, the estimated amount of furniture disposed of in the Greater Sydney Region amounts to 48,000 tonnes per year. Recycling is not a viable option because this furniture is usually made with veneers and engineered wood that can’t be sanded back or re-treated, and that swell and rot easily when exposed to moisture. The fittings are made of cheap plastic that exists for many years, floating on our oceans until they eventually break down.
Ok, folks, the blame is partly on us. We love to keep up with trends, and sister Zara is taking advantage of that and telling us what to buy again, ugh!
(From Zara Home’s Instagram)
The struggle to keep up with trends means cutting manufacturing costs, which fast furniture companies accomplish by using cheap non-recyclable materials, harmful chemicals, and pollutant dyes. Products are manufactured overseas (where labour is cheap), then shipped back to be sold. Moving furniture hundreds of miles frequently adds to the global carbon footprint. To reduce shipping costs, lightweight materials are used. This is catered towards millennials who don’t buy expensive furniture because they are always renting, and hunni, why would you spend money when it’s not even your own home?
Now that you’re aware of the reasons behind it, here is what you can do to fight fast furniture:
- Before rushing to big brands, check out vintage shops, charity shops, Facebook marketplace (or anywhere else you can get secondhand furniture!)
- Think about whether the pieces you buy are made of sustainable materials. For example, I grew up visiting my cousins in Chittagong (Bangladesh), who had a dining set made of bamboo and jute, which I thought was super cool because bamboo is easy to grow and gentle to nature (it’s a type of grass!). It’s also lightweight, durable and cheap!
Honestly, I would jump on this trend any day!
- Ask yourself if you can recycle/ upcycle the furniture you are disposing of.
- Collect durable pieces that you love and that express your personality, (the trend is you!) Over time, these pieces might gain a lot of sentimental value. Like this metal framed sofa that we used till I was in 7th grade, then passed down to my cousins, and is still in use today!
(my sister and I sitting on the sofa described above in 2005)