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THE GOODS : ECONOTES : An Office Done in the Deja Vu Style


Waste Management Inc.'s new "Office of the Future" is made almost entirely from scraps of the past.

"We believe this is the most comprehensive recycled office in the nation," says recycling pioneer Gary Petersen, who spearheaded the project.

The complex, in the Downtown Biltmore Tower at 500 S. Grand Ave., was officially opened last month. With its plush gray carpet, sleek furniture and potted plants, it looks like a typical corporate suite.

A visitor would not suspect that its carpet is made from plastic bottles, its walls from recycled newspapers and its furniture from old movie sets. The office is state of the (recycled) art through and through, Petersen says. "Everything from the steel studs in the walls down to the paper clips is either recycled or reused."

The new office has two functions. Primarily, it is a working office for environmental services giant Waste Management Inc. and its recycling service, Recycle America. But it also serves as a model, says Petersen, director of environmental affairs for Recycle America Western Group.

"This company has a long history in the recycling movement, and when it came time to open an office in Downtown Los Angeles, we thought it would be a great moment to reiterate our dedication," he says. "It's fine that we all recycle, but we wanted to show that it's possible to close the loop."

By that he means buying products made from recycled materials. To emphasize the showcase aspects of the office, Waste Management has compiled a brochure listing the room-by-room materials and furnishings. For instance:

* Desks, tables and shelves are made from used cardboard and brown paper bags, processed into a pulp, then pressed into lightweight panels by Gridcore.

* Ceilings are Armstrong's recycled newsprint fiber and wood fiber panels.

* Drywall is Domtar Gympsum's recycled paper with starch and foam additives.

* Bookshelves, cabinets and chairs from Spin-offs, which breaks down movie sets and builds new furniture from the lumber. An armchair in Petersen's office came from the hit film "Apollo 13."

Only a few years ago, Petersen says, most of those materials would have ended up in a landfill. "There has been so much progress since Earth Day 1990," he says. "There are 6,000 soda bottles in that carpet [from Image Industries], and the backing is made from recycled tires."

Although the figures aren't complete, he says, Waste Management's cost comparisons show that they saved money on many of the items. "I hope we will run 10% to 12% under regular costs."

For a free brochure describing the office, or to make a tour appointment, write to Office of the Future, Waste Management/Recycle America, 500 S. Grand Ave., Suite 1710, Los Angeles, Calif. 90071.

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