The Australian Furnishing Association (AFA) has the support of industry leaders, representing all areas of furnishing, to help tackle the problem of excessive waste, product contamination and unsustainability in the sector.

The Australian Furnishing Industry Product Stewardship Taskforce was convened earlier this year, in support of Australian Government initiatives aimed at establishing a Centre of Excellence for Product Stewardship. The government initiatives are aimed at inspiring new schemes, and ramping up existing product stewardship and recycling schemes, to address environmental and contamination issues, whilst generating new, sustainable, business initiatives.

The AFA is the recognised voice of the furnishing industry, by government, media and the Australian public. It encourages and supports its members in responsible and sustainable sourcing of materials, quality manufacturing, reducing waste and eradicating risks to human health and the environment.

AFA Ambassador and International award-winning designer, Jamie Durie OAM, has urged the industry to ‘get serious’ about product stewardship, and back the AFA’s all-inclusive and independent national Product Stewardship Scheme. Jamie says it is imperative that the industry moves beyond the ‘take, make and dispose’ economy, and embraces the circular economy – where all the materials used in production are re-used or recycled, and waste is eradicated.

‘The disposability of many furnishings has created a massive environmental problem that has to be addressed. We must not only ensure we use sustainably sourced materials, but also think about the end-use of the materials. ‘Single-use’ can be deleted from the process, with innovative design.

There are great opportunities for Australian designers and manufacturers and the AFA’s Product Stewardship Scheme is ideally placed, to help support suppliers, manufacturers, retailers – and Australian families, in ensuring a safer and more sustainable future for us all.’

Currently, it is estimated that in the greater Sydney area alone, 48,000 tonnes of used furniture are left on the kerbside each year.

Australasian Furnishing Association CEO, Patrizia Torelli, says that the AFA’s membership, across the full range of furnishings, can contribute significantly to reducing risks to human health and the environment, and promoting the circular economy.

‘The AFA is already active in providing the furnishing industry with tools and support for product stewardship. A prime example is our timber Due Diligence toolkit, to help combat the use of illegally-sourced timber.’

‘We are perfectly placed to help roll-out a National Product Stewardship Accreditation Process and maximise its implementation,’ Ms Torelli said.

The AFA has been working with industry members to promote public health, product safety and sustainability, but at the same time, to eradicate the sale of ‘recycled’ contaminated foams or mattresses.

Ms Torelli says that a successful Product Stewardship scheme will ultimately result in a ‘better deal’ for the consumer.

‘Not only will we reduce waste caused by the use of poor-quality single-use materials. A circular furnishing industry economy will result in a reduction in cost to the community generally, as furnishings are ‘built to last’, energy use is reduced and recycling delivers greater savings and opportunities to industry.’

As a national association, the AFA can help deliver recycling ‘economies of scale,’ by helping industry aggregate classes of furnishing materials, like foam, steel or timber, with commercially viable outcomes.