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What is Biodegradable Furniture?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2016
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Biodegradable furniture is furniture which is designed to break down naturally after its lifetime is over, rather than taking up space in a landfill. By its nature, biodegradable furniture is also better for the environment to produce, since it does not involve the use of toxic chemicals and synthetic materials, as these would make the furniture less likely to biodegrade quickly. A number of companies, including top designers, make biodegradable furniture, and it is available from ecologically oriented home supply stores.

There are several ideas behind the concept of biodegradable furniture. In the first place, it acknowledges the fact that people tend to discard furniture after it stops looking good, or when they redesign a room and find that their furniture no longer works in that room. With conventional furniture, discards usually make their way slowly to landfills, often with a stop at a used furniture store or on a battered porch first. Once furniture reaches a landfill, it slowly rots, although components like plastics may endure for centuries, taking up space and leaching various substances into the earth.

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Biodegradable furniture, on the other hand, will break down once it is discarded. This furniture is designed to break down rapidly when exposed to water, ultraviolet radiation, and the elements, potentially creating a situation in which consumers could compost their furniture, rather than throwing it away. In some cases, biodegradable furniture is even designed with the idea of extremely rapid breakdown in mind; for example, biodegradable lawn furniture which people can use for a season. Such furniture can even be designed with embedded nutrients for plants, nourishing the garden as it melts away.

Because the whole idea behind biodegradable furniture is sustainable design and ecologically friendly features, it is typically made in facilities which emphasize environmentally sound practices, and it includes recycled materials and substances of natural origin. This makes such furniture safe around young children and pets, since it does not have substances which could potentially cause illness, although the drawback is that biodegradable furniture also lacks the flame retardants used to make couches and other upholstered furniture fire-resistant.

This concept is not without controversy. People who are opposed to consumer culture argue that it would be better to make high quality furniture which is designed to last a lifetime, rather than creating what is essentially disposable furniture. Opponents of biodegradable furniture suggest that constantly buying new furniture is less environmentally sound that using and repairing existing furniture, as the production of biodegradable furniture still creates an environmental footprint, even if it is a small one.

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