Saving office furniture from landfill: Deartree

Each week, hundreds of millions of us walk into an office, pull out a chair — probably one that swivels — and sit down at our desks to begin the work day. 

According to the China Resale Goods Trading Association (CRGTA) , China produces over 350 million pieces of office furniture annually. But once office furniture falls out of use — through wear, tear, breakages, or as a result of business relocations or closures — it mostly cannot be utilised and typically enters the municipal waste stream, often ending up in landfill. Chair Office Furniture

Saving office furniture from landfill: Deartree

In 2009, Deartree was founded to ensure that office furniture has multiple lives by refurbishing mid-to-high-end office chairs, desks, and cabinets recovered from medium-to-large-sized enterprises. This business-to-business (B2B) network has provided more than 130,000 buyers with second-hand office furniture so far, expanding to a total of 13 branch offices in ten cities nationwide and Singapore.

In the current linear model, the office furniture industry is a resource-intensive sector. Deartree has created a cost-effective supply network to enable reverse flows of office furniture at scale. This ensures that the embodied value in the materials that go into making these desks and chairs is utilised to its full potential.  

Repair and reuse reuse The repeated use of a product or component for its intended purpose without significant modification. are key to reducing virgin material use and decreasing associated carbon emissions. Since 2021, Deartree has evaluated the carbon emissions reduction based on data collected through its ‘Circular Office System’ (COS) digital management system and evaluation by the China Environmental United Certification Centre (CEC) . During this period, Deartree has circulated 940,000 pieces of furniture, reducing carbon emissions by 22,312 tons.

By purchasing these refurbished items, buyers can also significantly save on procurement costs, with savings ranging from 40% up to 69%. In 2019, Deartree supplied Didi — the largest mobility technology platform in China — with second-hand office furniture valued at RMB 2.3 million (USD 324,000), reducing Didi’s procurement costs by RMB 3.45 million (USD 485,000), compared to purchasing brand-new items. 

Deartree purchases furniture at prices ranging from 10% to 30% of their original cost. Subsequently, the selling price for these items is determined based on their condition. Companies can contact Deartree directly through its in-house ‘Furniture Concierge’ service and a team will collect and transport furniture to a warehouse. Following in-house quality, condition, and safety classification assessments, recovered items are resold with new warranties provided by Deartree. On some occasions, buyers do not want or need to commit to a full office refit. Through this concierge service, businesses can rent furniture for temporary use or book storage space during office remodels and moving between locations.  

In 2017, Deartree leveraged industry expertise to develop what its founder termed a “first-of-its-kind” comprehensive digital management solution for this sector. The ‘Circular Office System’ (COS) was built to manage the complex furniture reuse supply chain, involving reverse logistics reverse logistics Supply chains dedicated to the reverse flow of products and materials for the purpose of maintenance, repair, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, recycling, or regenerating natural systems. . It tracks Deartree’s entire process from demand and sales, to collection, storage, and delivery. It also records the environmental impact assessment of the furniture, including materials meeting or exceeding E1 standards , formaldehyde emission levels in compliance with international standards, functionality, and quality, as well as stock inventory and demand dynamics.

There are a number of lessons that can be learned from Deartree’s journey to scaling up office furniture resale.

Low prices can put companies off selling old and unused furniture. By creating a standardised, transparent pricing structure, Deartree offers clarity to sellers and reinforces the economic case for resale over disposal. At the same time, setting standards helps the company to control quality. The COS system then tracks this data in one simple platform, creating a product record to assist with resale.

It costs more to store and transport larger items, creating a risk for sellers that processing costs exceed the resale value. Scaling geographically across ten cities has enabled Deartree to reduce high transportation costs by leveraging local partnerships and forming interconnected networks for reverse logistics. These local logistics hubs allow Deartree to offer same-day delivery services nationwide, handling every step from retrieval to resale, and providing an end-to-end service that maximises convenience for both sellers and buyers.

Customers may have reservations about the quality, condition, longevity, and safety of second-hand furniture. While some recovered furniture is often in ‘as-new’ condition from sellers, every resold item is professionally cleaned, disinfected, and refurbished before delivery to minimise any signs of first-hand use. Deartree also provides the name of the seller’s company on the label to add further quality assurance. Furthermore, data collected by the COS system — detailing pricing, use, quality, cleaning, and refurbishment — collectively contributes to the final purchase quotation, giving purchasers confidence in what they’re buying.

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Saving office furniture from landfill: Deartree

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