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Recycling can help alleviate furniture poverty

Getting home at the end of a long day and going into bed for a well-earned rest – just one of the everyday activities not always possible for the 14 million UK families unable to afford one or more basic household goods such as beds and mattresses.

This inability to purchase even the most basic of household items is known as furniture poverty. It is less conspicuous than fuel or food poverty but just as detrimental to everything from an individual’s sense of dignity to the ability to get a good night’s sleep.

The number of UK households struggling to cope with these poor living conditions has more than doubled in the past 20 years, with increasing numbers of families now living without basic amenities including washing machines, kettles, curtains, mattresses, beds and chairs.

Furniture poverty is a nationwide problem in the UK. But on a regional level it is London that has the highest number of individuals living on a low income, with 2.3 million people struggling financially after housing costs.

Imagine, then, the difference that could be made to children and adults living in relative poverty across the UK if they could simply have access to a good quality mattress and get the restorative sleep that everybody deserves, regardless of their household income.

Due to budget restrictions, social housing organisations are simply not able to source and provide mattresses of a suitable quality in order to facilitate a good night’s sleep for people living in social housing.

R&R Beds is working on projects with recyclers, charities and public sector organisations to ensure everybody has access to a comfortable, durable mattress at home, by making sure that old and unwanted mattresses are not thrown away but recycled, and the reusable parts made into brand new, superior quality products for distribution to families in need.

One such project involves Blackburn-based furniture reuse charity Reuse Together. With the aim of bringing a furniture recycling initiative to the region, the project contributes to the circular economy model, diverts products from landfill and offers cost-effective pre-used furniture items to families in need.

Reuse Together receives and recycles quality furniture, white goods, carpet tiles and other household items that would otherwise be disposed of, then offers them at affordable prices. From its headquarters in Glenfield Park, the company works with Together Housing Trust and Twin Valley Homes to identify those in need of furniture, and the appropriate reusable items are then diverted from landfill, bringing both environmental and financial benefits.

A good day will only follow from a good night’s sleep, and we believe that excellent quality mattresses should not be restricted only to those with high levels of disposable income. It makes no sense to dispose of reuseable furniture, especially when we know that these items can be broken down and used to create new, superior quality products. With the recycling technology and capabilities we have today, there is absolutely no need for families to resort to sleeping on floors and makeshift surfaces when they could be sleeping on a comfortable bed.

Rather than getting rid of unwanted furniture, we want to raise awareness of the recycling opportunities available and how the resulting products can be put to good use by someone in need. We know that more than 7.5 million mattresses in the UK are sent to landfill every year which, with a good recycling and reuse process, could be made use of and appreciated by families in need.

The public sector needs to step up efforts to identify and partner with more companies, charities, housing associations and recyclers to source good quality, affordable mattresses and beds for children and families living in furniture poverty. In doing so, they can help to give these families the good night’s sleep they deserve and work towards ending furniture poverty in the UK.

Nick Oettinger is managing director at R&R Beds

  • This article is an edited version of one that has appeared in other publications

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