Disposal of upholstered furniture has changed

Posted on 4 January 2023

From the 1st of January 2023, a new legislation came into play to ensure the safe disposal of any upholstered furniture which has reached the end of its natural life. The legislation applies to both businesses and domestic situations.

Why is this necessary?

These types of items have been found to contain Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which are harmful to the environment, wildlife and humans if not disposed of safely. Investigations carried out by The Environment Agency has identified large quantities of POPs and other hazardous chemicals in the foam of upholstered furniture, as well as associated materials which can come into contact with the foam.

Upholstered furniture can no longer be safely disposed of in general waste or sent to landfill sites, and should now be treated as hazardous waste. As they cannot be recycled, reused or repurposed these soft furnishings must be safely disposed of through incineration.

Which items are included?

  • sofas
  • sofa beds
  • armchairs
  • kitchen and dining room chairs
  • stools and foot stools
  • home office chairs
  • futons
  • bean bags, floor and sofa cushions

This includes any part made of or containing leather, synthetic leather, other fabric, or foam.

According to The Environment Agency, the only unaffected items are:

Items not upholstered (e.g. wooden chairs without any textile or cushioning)

  • Deckchairs
  • Mattresses or beds
  • Curtains or blinds
  • Items which are known not to contain POPs

Is all upholstered furniture affected?

Many UK manufacturers stopped using POPs in their furniture by 2011 so not all upholstered furniture may be affected. However please read our guidance notes above or contact us for more information.

What should I do now

Assume any item of upholstered furniture may contain POPs.
Separate any upholstered items from all other types of waste – do not contaminate the other waste types with this material
Where possible remove affected POP materials from non-affected materials.
Notify your waste management company of the material to be collected

Further information on POPs and the legislation can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/using-persistent-organic-pollutants-pops

https://www.fidra.org.uk/news/fight-to-destroy-waste-domestic-seating-pops/

https://www.letsrecycle.com/news/waste-sofas-must-be-incinerated-pops-ea/

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