When we bring goods to the thrift store, we assume that we are doing a good thing. Four students from Windesheim University of Applied Sciences looked into what’s happens with the couches that are received in the thrift store, how they are treated, disassembled and disposed of. One of them Stefanija Duntava was an intern at The Substitute and she wrote this blog to tell you more about it.

Not all couches are the same. The older and more damaged the couch, the lesser the chance of its reusage. In fact, we found that 9 out of 10 couches are not sold in the thrift store and will end up in landfill instead of being recycled.

What happens to your couch after you bring it to the Kringloop?

Every couch that is brought to a drop-off point in a thrift store has to go through a number of steps to be given a second life. Not all the couches are the same and not all of them will survive the process.

1)    The thrift store employees will visually evaluate whether the couch is good enough to be placed in the store. Sometimes, the couches are damaged, dirty and unusable. If the thrift store employees will notice it upon the drop-off, they have the right to refuse taking your couch.

2)    If the couch is in a good condition and can be used again, the thrift store employees will place it in the store for sale. It will stay there for a couple of weeks or until it gets sold.

Every thrift store has a different time period they keep their furniture in the store. That depends on customer demand, amount of couches available and so forth. Familiar brands will sell quicker (e. g. Ikea), whereas older, less-modern couches will stay in the store for longer.

3)    If a couch has not been sold in a couple weeks time and the thrift store employees need to make space for new goods, the couch will be removed from the store. The couch will be brought to the inventory area for dissassembly and disposal.

4)    Thrift store uses volunteers to disassemble the couches. Then the  thrift store has to pay to their waste manager for a disposal of it. (If that’s the case with your couch, do kringloop a favour – bring your couch to recycling center instead!)

What’s in a couch?

Most couches and armchairs contain four primary materials: wooden frame, metal springs, foam upholstery and a layer of fabric or leather. The material that creates the most volume of general waste is foam (19% of the weight). The wood and metal are being recycled, while leather can be repurposed to make new goods on a small scale. Fabrics will usually be wasted too. Although recycling is an option it would be better to upcycle the materials into new goods. So if you have a great idea for the usage of these left-over materials let us know!


So if your old couch is damaged, do the thrift store a favour and bring it to the waste manager instead. If you are not sure, you can always consult your local thrift store employees. If your couch is in good condition and reusable, go ahead and give it another life!

Fotocredits: The photos accompanying this article are derived from, and owned by, Stefanija Duntava.