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Products from waste
WRITER: JOANNA LE PLUART
Why not take recycling one step further and actually make new products out of waste? A few years back, someone at IKEA had this ‘crazy idea’… But now, this is turning into reality, saving money for the customers and finite resources for Mother Earth.
IKEA has never been afraid to ask big, audacious questions. By looking at the problem of waste and recycling a little differently, the company has set out on an exciting journey in sustainability and begun pioneering ways to turn trash into treasure. One example of an innovative use of ‘waste’ is SKRUTT (Swedish for ‘scrap’), a desk protector made out of used packing material.
The SKRUTT solution
According the Earth Policy Institute, the world throws away more than a trillion plastic bags per year, and an estimated four to five million tons of plastic end up in our oceans. But it doesn’t have to. Plastic can be recycled again and again. Today’s packing materials can become tomorrow’s products. And when those products reach the end of their lifespan, they can be recycled once again into something new and useful.
Take SKRUTT, for instance. It starts as ‘scrap’ from the plastic film used to protect IKEA products during transit. Last year, Product Developer Kent Larsson and his team successfully devised a process for turning this particular kind of trash intro treasure.
“We collect discarded polyethylene film into bales which are sorted, cleaned, and fed into a grinder. The ground-up plastic is then washed, dried, melted together, and pressed through a mesh that removes any remaining impurities. The result is long, spaghetti-like strands of plastic, which are cut into pellets. These pellets are the ‘raw material’ that can then be turned into something new.”
For SKRUTT desk pads, the pellets are melted into sheets and cut to measure, giving a strong, flexible, lightweight pad that can be used to protect your desktop or any other surface your home, including furniture or flooring. “The desk pad contains 50 percent recycled materials, and the offcuts can go right back into production, so nothing is ever wasted,” says Kent Larsson.
"The desk pad contains 50% recycled materials, and the offcuts can go right back into production, so nothing is ever wasted."
“There is also potential beyond plastics,” says Kent Larsson. For example, his team is now collecting discarded cardboard from IKEA stores, thinking that this too could be recycled into new products one day. “We’re exploring ways to recycle paper into board material that’s strong enough to become a table-top, a bookshelf or a magazine rack,” he says. “It’s just a dream today, but SKRUTT was a dream just a short while ago. When we all work together, anything is possible!”
SKRUTT became a reality in 2016 and immediately sold very well, especially in Asia. Following on from this success, IKEA is now looking at other products that can be made from waste materials. Look out for TOMAT spray bottles and YDBY doormats in store — two more products that are being created from recycled plastic film.
"It’s just a dream today, but SKRUTT was a dream just a short while ago. When we all work together, anything is possible!"