November 30, 2023

Furniture Bank

Swing Your Furniture Bank

American Furniture Warehouse partners with nonprofit Houston Furniture Bank to help impoverished families, grow recycling economy

Area nonprofits have their hands full, their services in higher demand than ever due to the pandemic-induced hardships.

In late 2019, American Furniture Warehouse and nonprofit Houston Furniture Bank formed a partnership to enhance their respective recycling operations — a decision which proved to be a timely blessing in the difficult year that followed.

American Furniture Warehouse has Houston-area locations in Katy and Webster.

Charitable, tax-exempt HFB, which provides free or low-cost household furnishings to people in need, also salvages and re-purposes landfill-bound mattresses, while AFW systematically recycles packaging waste.

Joining forces enabled both organizations to not only grow the state’s recycling economy but also help more impoverished families.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, our activities were slowed down,” said Oli Mohammed, executive director HFB. “But we increased our output — we’ve given away more furniture. People’s needs were going up because more and more people were losing their jobs.”

AFW offers customers an optional mattress disposal service, picking up and discarding used bedding. The used mattresses collected by AFW are now delivered to HFB to be recycled or refurbished. In return, HFB sends used packaging material from its furniture distribution centers — Styrofoam, plastic, and cardboard — to be reprocessed by AFW.

“Last year we recycled over 26,000 mattresses approximately,” said Mohammed. “A significant number came from AFW, every week we would receive a truckload from them. In 2018, we recycled 15,000.”

After Hurricane Harvey, HFB started the “Mattress Builders” program, producing affordable, good-quality mattresses within its own walls. The program, which now has eight employees, became an integral part of HFB’s “No Kids on the Floor” initiative, launched in 2019.

Mohammed said thousands of children slept on the floor every night across the greater Houston area. The initiative attempts to raise awareness and funds to combat this problem.

While most mattresses are taken apart to be made into new furniture, some are in a good enough condition to be pressed back into service after a thorough cleaning and disinfection. HFB made the decision to donate these refurbished mattresses to families and children in need, as part of the “No Kids on the Floor” initiative.

“We cut open the mattress, take out the foam, topper and metal springs and separate and recycle them,” said Mohammed. “If we recycle 100 mattresses, maybe 20 of them do not need to be cut open. It is in a good enough condition that we can clean it up and sterilize it and give it away.”

Several hundred thousand mattresses are thrown away across the greater Houston area each year, filling up landfills and creating pockets of poisonous gases. Shredding discarded mattresses is one way of easing the strain on landfills.

“Recycling’s been a very important part our business and before we connected with HFB, we were shredding those mattresses,” said Alyssa Vogel from AFW. “HFB are creating jobs for people (through Mattress Builders) which is great. Then we learned HFB had a lot of cardboard and Styrofoam just like we do that they didn’t have a way to recycle, we decided to bring that over here to recycle.”

AFW’s two stores in Texas have state-of-the-art recycling facilities set up in their vast stockrooms. Styrofoam, which many recycling centers do not accept, is put in a “Styropress” — a briquetting machine which reprocesses it into bricks that can be used for construction work.

Mohammed said both parties were pleased with the “symbiotic” relationship they had formed.

“It’s very important we keep all our packaging waste out of the landfill so that we have as green of a footprint as possible,” said Vogel.

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