Are you ready to stop owning anything, and reuse instead?
— Maxime Baffert, Bluedigo Founder
To face this widespread practice of destroying or incinerating the unused furniture of entire towers of La Défense, Maxime Baffert decided to launch Bluedigo. This start-up helps companies to get out of a linear logic to go towards more circularity with second hand furniture. A logic that has only advantages, since it allows both to control environmental impact and budget.
Can you quickly yourself, who you are, and what you do?
I'm Maxime Baffert, 45 years old, I'm the founder of Bluedigo, a startup that helps companies create positive impact workspaces. Concretely, the core of our activity is to propose layouts with second-hand office furniture.
What are your favorite subjects?
Digital, innovation and startups. The circular economy
What is the emerging topic that you think will matter in the near future?
When we think of the circular economy, we usually think of recycling and not necessarily reuse. Yet recycling is not always possible and it involves significant CO2 emissions. I think that the question of reuse - how to give a 2nd, 3rd etc... life to objects that already exist, is going to arise more and more.
What is at stake?
The challenge is to move from a logic of ownership and consumption to a logic of use and reuse, or, to put it another way, to move from a linear logic to a mostly circular logic. Reuse already exists in most sectors but its market share compared to new products is low, generally below 10%. The challenge for me is to develop the logic of reuse so that second-hand products represent 30, 50 or even 70% of products sold on a market.
What changes and opportunities can this bring?
The first opportunity is obviously linked to the fight against climate change. By developing reuse, we can reduce the need to produce new objects, even though this production is generally the most polluting stage in the life of a product. So to meet the IPCC objectives, reuse is absolutely essential. But the strength of reuse is also its economic potential. Contrary to many eco-responsible innovations, second-hand products are generally less expensive than existing products and therefore attractive to consumers. There is therefore a real economic opportunity to be seized by new players as well as by existing companies. It is all the more interesting since the reconditioning, repair and distribution of second-hand products create local jobs that are difficult to relocate.
What are the obstacles or risks?
Almost all of our economy is based on a linear model that works quite well, if we disregard its catastrophic impact on the environment. So changing this logic to adopt a more circular approach requires an effort and a risk that consumers are not always willing or able to assume. The brakes are therefore as much in the minds of buyers as in the need to set up new logistical flows, new distribution and recovery channels.
“The challenge is to develop the logic of reuse so that 2nd-hand represent 30, 50 or even 70% of products sold”
Who are the actors in this field?
There are all kinds of players in this field: companies like Bluedigo, SSE companies, associations... The challenge is really to make these players grow in order to develop reuse and make it become a reflex in companies.
How did you become aware of this issue?
I used to work in a large group that, due to its external growth, was constantly reorganizing its workspaces. I realized that every time we moved, almost all of the office furniture ended up in a dumpster, even though it was brand-name furniture in perfect condition. By digging a little, I realized that this was an extremely common practice and that sometimes the furniture of entire towers in La Défense ended up being destroyed or incinerated. I found this to be a huge waste.
Where can we learn more?
I recommend the publications of the National Institute of Circular Economy as well as that of ADEME, in particular its Panorama on the 2nd life of products in France. To take a step back, there is also the book Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage, by journalist Adam Minter, to buy second hand of course.