Office chairs can be recycled, but most parts of the office chair do not recycle easily, if at all.
Recycling is easier if there are local recycling initiatives for office chairs or large item recycling programs.
Fixing, selling, donating, or reusing the office chair are other options to keep it out of a landfill if recycling is not an option.
The opportunities for recycling an office chair change depending on location, but there are plenty of routes to take to limit the chance of the chair going to waste.
Keep reading as we explain how most office chairs are recycled and explore these other options.
How to Recycle Office Chairs
To recycle an office chair, you need to take it apart and deal with the materials appropriately.
Metal is the easiest part to recycle, and you can take metal components to a scrap metal dealer so they can melt them down and use them in different products.
Parts of an office chair that are difficult to recycle include:
- Wood (typically treated or composite and unable to be recycled)
- Plastic (difficult to determine the plastic-type for recycling)
- Textiles (again, difficult to determine the material; textile recycling measures are not as common)
It may be easier to look to other avenues, such as a recycling initiative by the office chair manufacturer or a local recycling program dedicated to larger items.
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Many companies strive to address social, economic, and environmental issues through the life of the product.
While this ends at the sale for some companies, others engage in recycling initiatives to prevent their products from ending up in a landfill.
This not only helps the environment, but it preserves the company’s reputation (consider how Coca-Cola is held responsible for plastic waste in the oceans).
Office chair manufacturers like Steelcase may have recycling plans to keep their chairs from ending up in the trash.
These programs help you evaluate the condition of your chair, offer options for reuse, and help you find recycling programs for the chair.
It’s best to contact your chair’s manufacturer or a local office chair supplier to inquire about these initiatives.
Large Item Recycling Programs:
Some businesses specialize in recycling large and hard to recycling items like:
- Office chairs
- Weight training equipment
These vary depending on your location and your office chair, and you should still expect to do the work of disassembling the chair.
But this offers a positive solution when your municipal recycling center is not equipped for the task.
Alternatives to Recycling Office Chairs
Recycling is not your only option for keeping your office chair out of the landfill, and it may not be the best solution available.
Depending on the condition of your office chair, consider:
- Fixing minor issues with the chair
- Selling the chair to get some return on investment
- Donating the chair to a thrift store or underserved population
- Reusing the chair to accomplish another task
This lets you address the issues of the office chair without jumping through hoops to recycle or dispose of it.
If you need to get rid of your office chair because you experience issues, make sure the problem doesn’t have a quick solution first.
A lot of repairs require little effort on your part, and paying someone to fix your higher-end chair can save you more in the long run.
Easy fixes include:
- Replacing the shaft
- Upgrading the castors
- Tightening loose bolts or screws
- Adjusting knobs or levers
- Replacing the recliner spring
- Lubricating parts of the chair
If you want to upgrade the upholstery of the chair, consider reupholstering it yourself. It’s easier than it sounds, keeps your chair out of the landfill, and gives you even greater control of the cushion material and fabric style.
For a less intensive solution, you can buy slipcovers that stretch right over your existing cover.
If the chair is still in good working condition, then there is no reason you can’t sell it.
The difficulty in selling the chair depends on whether you have a good market for office chairs in your area. If you’re getting rid of an entire set of office chairs, offer them up to a small business, school, or non-profit for a fee to get a return on your investment.
You’ll have better luck selling singular office chairs from a reputable manufacturer. Cheaper chairs lose most of their value through the course of their life, but you may have some luck posting the chair on an online platform like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Avoid offering to ship your office chair. This can cost hundreds of dollars, and it’s usually more trouble than it is worth.
If you’re in a hurry to get the office chair out of your position, consider donating it to any of the aforementioned parties you could sell it to.
Alternatively, donate the chair to a local thrift store.
Many thrift stores have conditions for larger items like furniture, so you should make sure they’ll take it in before dropping it off. Otherwise, you’re just tasking them with the responsibility to dispose of the chair appropriately.
Your city may let you set the chair out at the curb so your neighbors can pick it up, but check before doing this to avoid potential tickets and fines.
If you’re crafty, you can give the chair new life by reusing it or its parts.
If you have pets, consider minimizing the frame and setting it near your desk area as a pet bed.
This might be suitable for anyone with cats or other small animals that like to snuggle in their lap as they work. It’s cute, but it can get annoying.
Other ideas include:
- Using the base to create a cart
- Salvaging usable materials to fix other office chairs
- Transforming the chair as an art project
This takes a more creative approach, but it serves as a better solution than throwing the chair away.
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Easy Office Chair Fixes Instead of Recycling
The easiest situation to avoid is throwing out an office chair with an easy-to-fix problem.
These usually include directly swapping parts or replacing a flat cushion.
More complicated issues may not be worth the effort, but taking the time to repair the chair (even if you end up selling or donating it) is something Mother Earth will appreciate.
Office chairs aren’t complicated machinery, and it’s easy to swap parts such as:
- Gas cylinders
Check with your local office supply store or the office chair manufacturer to find OEM replacement parts, or you can find universal options that suit your needs.
This is usually cheaper than replacing the office chair with a new one and it limits your contributions to the landfill.
Replacing a Flat Office Chair Cushion:
This is not as straightforward as a direct swap, but replacing a flat or worn cushion is easy, albeit tedious.
You just remove the cushion cover, remove the old cushion, and replace it with foam of the same shape and size.
This provides the perfect opportunity to upgrade your office chair cushion and reupholster it, all without buying an entirely new office chair.
With options like these, the lack of recycling options for office chairs is not as disappointing.
Choosing to sell, donate, or upcycle the chair also keeps it out of the landfill and helps it continue to serve its purpose.