Polyester is a durable, wrinkle-resistant and easy-care material that is ideal for many home furnishing products like rugs, pillows, quilts and cushions.
The downside to virgin polyester is that it is made from oil, coal or natural gas. This means that when we use virgin polyester, we are exhausting the planet’s natural resources. Our response to this, is to replace all virgin polyester with recycled in our products.
In 2020, we achieved the milestone of replacing 79% of the virgin polyester used in IKEA textile products and will accelerate the transformation towards the aim of only using recycled polyester throughout the product range where polyester is used.
It was during one of those overcast summer break days when nobody wants to swim and everyone's a little bored. Ola Kristensson was actually on holiday from his job as Product Developer at IKEA, but he brought a job project to his summer cottage on Sweden’s West Coast. It involved prototypes for a new junior chair for children between 6 and 12 years.
Maybe the children living nearby could come and test the chair? After all, they're truly professional – at being children. And an ice-cream later the children were in full swing with their testing and feedback.
The task that Ola and his team had been given a year earlier was to develop a comfortable desk chair that can adapt as the child grows. Detailed knowledge about children's ergonomics and their needs determined the chair's design and features.
”Children are constantly moving, even when they're seated. Those small movements improve well-being and we wanted to encourage them. That's why we developed a chair which swivels and has a tiltable backrest”, explains Ola while he shows a blue example of VIMUND, which is the finished chair's name.
He also shows how a few simple turns can adjust the seating and backrest heights as the child grows, meaning the chair can be used for several years – or by different children. And while waiting to reach the floor, they can rest their feet on the footrest.
It was not only children on Sweden’s West Coast who tested VIMUND. A few months later, after the chair had been safety-tested and refined further, at a school in China the chair was again tested and evaluated by true professionals.
Here it was confirmed that children behave in quite similar ways and have the same needs when they're seated at their desks. Regardless if they're playing computer games, doing school work or drawing, and no matter where in the world they grow up. The Chinese school children pretty much had the same views as the Swedish children. This included feedback about the colours and the seat's softness.
”All children chose a softer seat but we didn't stick to their views entirely. We know that a firmer seat still softens over time and is more durable in the long run”, says Ola. ”Experience is also important when developing a product”.
Originally, all polyester was made from oil-based raw materials which are not renewable but we are switching to only using recycled polyester. The good thing is that polyester can be recycled over and over, without negatively affecting the quality of our products.
When we make products from recycled polyester, we give a second life to material that is not biodegradable and reduce the amount that may otherwise end up in landfill or the ocean. Instead, PET and other sources of polyester are used to make textiles, storage boxes, kitchen fronts and even lamps.
Recycled polyester is just as good as virgin polyester in terms of looks, quality and function, and produces about 50% less in CO2 emissions. And the material is just as clean and safe in every way.
Recycled polyester makes us less dependent on oil. The amount we convert, is equal to the amount of virgin fossil fuel we eliminate from our polyester raw material (this excludes potential dyeing and other post recycled polyester production treatments).
With some exceptions, the challenge is not the conversion of polyester into recycled itself, but to make it available to everyone by keeping it affordable. Buying low environmental impact products often comes with a higher price tag. We want to change that by working to make recycled polyester products more affordable and accessible to the many people.
IKEA is committed to end the dependency on virgin fossil materials and only use renewable or recycled materials by 2030.
We are accelerating this movement for polyester in our range and aim to replace all virgin polyester in our textile products with recycled. In 2020, IKEA replaced 79% of the virgin polyester used in IKEA textile products with recycled polyester. In volume, this means we converted 130,000 metric tonnes of recycled polyester, and saved 200,000 tonnes of virign polyester.
We haven’t reached our 100% goal yet, but we have come far and overcome many obstacles on the way. These volumes make us a leader in converting to recycled polyester and we hope that our decisions can inspire and motivate whole industries to change.
At IKEA, we demand that all recycled polyester used in IKEA products shall come from recyclers that are compliant with the Global Recycled Standard and traceability is secured to the IKEA product through requirements toward the IKEA Suppliers.
By only using recycled polyester that meets the Global Recycled Standards we manage to secure social, environmental and chemical practices at the recycler’s production. We believe that the GRS standard is the best standard on the market today. We work with our partners and textile organisations such as Textile Exchange to further improve standards on recycled materials, including traceability of material beyond the recycling units.