Only 15% of UK furniture is reused or recycled, while half of the 1.6 million tonnes sent to landfill could be, according to a new study.
The research was carried out by the RSA on behalf of Suez and found that a simple change to the way fire labels are stitched or stamped could dramatically reduce the numbers of sofas and chairs sent to landfill.
Often owners of furniture cut off the fire labels, and this means they cannot be reused by charity and other resellers.
The Rearranging the Furniture report also called for furniture manufacturers to learn from reuse and recycling companies in order to improve the end-of-life implications of their designs.
It also suggested that manufacturers should contribute to the costs of repair or recycling of furniture or receive the goods back once the customer has finished with them.
But the report also said that the way the waste industry is designed needs to change in order to take account of actual products rather than just shredding them.
RSA Great Recovery head of programme Lucy Chamberlin said: “One man’s waste is another’s gold, and as we saw time and again it is people’s perceptions about what is or isn’t waste that effectively determines the fate of an object.
“Items that are no longer wanted by one person will still hold value for others so reselling should be made as easy as possible.
“By increasing rates of reuse not only can we reduce the quantity of bulky items going to landfill and incineration, we can also increase social value by boosting employment and providing affordable essentials like sofas to those on low incomes.”
Suez UK recycling and recovery chief executive David Palmer-Jones said: “Despite sitting above recycling in the waste hierarchy, reuse does not get nearly the same attention as recycling does.
“The opportunities to make more of the products we discard are huge, but it needs a concentrated and coordinated push from product designers, policymakers and waste management service providers.
“Our work with The Great Recovery team at the RSA shows that relatively minor changes in the way in which we design and handle our household products can make the difference between consigning a discarded item for disposal, or retrieving it and giving it a second life.”