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Posted: December 01, 2009

How to keep old office furniture out of landfills

New Web site allows people to post or search for available cubicles, desks, among other office furnishings

Dan Ray

A DVD player, a piano, a fax machine or a pet cat: searching the “free stuff” section on craigslist can net a wide range of useful or fun items. If you want a desk chair for your new office, look no further.

But what if you want 40 matching desk chairs? What if you need a dozen cubicles? And what if you can’t afford to buy these things new?

These are some of the questions that spurred Kathey Pear, a longtime Colorado-based furniture dealer, to found FACILITYcycle.com – a craigslist-inspired online service for businesses, nonprofits and charities, among other organizations in need of office equipment. The FACILITYcycle Web site allows companies and individuals to post and search for used office materials that otherwise would end up in landfills.

“Almost everyone I talked to told me they had loads of office furniture just sitting in storage,” Pear said. “The biggest companies had the most stuff and were paying a ton to store it."

Prior to the creation of FACILITYcycle.com, thousands of Colorado companies were forced to throw out perfectly good office furniture or store it at relatively high costs, Pear said. Nationwide, some 8.8 million tons of usable office equipment ends up in landfills every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pear conceived the idea for FACILITYcycle while she was on hiatus from her 25-year career as a furniture dealer. At first, Pear said she found that a lot of the older office furniture could be run through an auto shredder and sold for its constituent parts – since the majority of this furniture is made out of metal. The process of shredding the waste furniture and selling it for its parts made sense for the very old items, but for newer products, which could be reused, there was a need for connecting people who needed office materials with those looking to get rid of them. She tried using craigslist. But, it was inefficient since the site rarely linked people who had high volumes of office equipment with those who needed it.

The answer, Pear said, was to: “make something like craigslist but focused on facilities,” and to “be like Match.com” and introduce these people who had furniture to get rid of and those who needed it. FACILITYcycle.com went up Halloween 2008, and thousands of visitors have used it since. One such organization that has benefited from the new service was Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver.

“In tough economic times, companies may find it difficult to donate cash. They can still positively impact non-profit organizations by donating surplus furniture and supplies,” said Kim L. Davidson, Denver Boys and Girls Club facilities director. “Everything we received was in good condition. The work stations we built look great and function well ergonomically.”
 
Currently, Pear’s furniture supplier, Citron WorkSpaces, sponsors FACILITYcycle.com, which was recently given a stamp of approved by the EPA’s WasteWise Program. The hope is that additional sponsorship can help in spreading this free service to other regions “We may have another site up in March,” Pear said. “We’re hoping to keep everything within 200 miles” to keep the service sustainable. To learn about the project, become a project sponsor or post or search for available furnishings,  visit http://www.facilitycycle.com/.

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Dan Ray is a graduate student at the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

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