Setting the table with reused glass
Dark, dramatic, and with a surprising past—it's not a soap opera character, it's BACKIG, our tableware series made of glass reused from factory scraps. "Using more sustainable materials in all our products is something that we strive for," says Nanette Weisdal, who works with sustainability at IKEA. "It's in the IKEA DNA."
IKEA is built on the idea that waste is a mortal sin. Our founder, Ingvar Kamprad, directly mentions it in a document that guides the values and actions of IKEA, saying: "Waste of resources is one of the greatest diseases of mankind". It's this belief that's brought us flat packs, solar powered lights, more sustainable cotton, and products made of reused materials, like BACKIG.
Creating a new product from the scraps of many
In a small French town, less than an hour's drive from the ocean, a large factory is ablaze on the inside. Furnaces fire at volcanic temperatures and conveyor belts whirl with glowing red globs, turning out dozens of different IKEA glass products.
"In glass production you always get a certain amount of scrap," explains Daniel Stjernqvist, an engineer who's specialised in glass for many years. He works at the headquarters for IKEA design. The building sits in Älmhult, the small Swedish town where the IKEA value of making the most of everything comes from.
"Sometimes material is cut off to create a finished product, and sometimes it breaks or has something wrong with it—like a bubble or a defect—so it's rejected," says Daniel, explaining what glass scraps are. "This is then crushed and goes back into the furnace again to melt."
Clear glass can be reused to make clear glass, but the dusky deep purple tint of BACKIG is characteristic of when different coloured glass is melted together and reused to make something new. The result is so dark it's nearly black, which is why it's often called "black glass".
Affordable, safe, and sustainable
BACKIG was developed, in part, to offer a more affordable alternative to our black stoneware tableware.
"Black glass is less expensive to produce than black stoneware," says Daniel. "So we could offer an alternative to customers and lower the price."
And though low cost for the customer is always a goal at IKEA, even more important is securing safety. Since the glass scraps that make BACKIG never leave the factory, they're particularly safe. That's because they come from an environment that we know meets our strict standards and requirements. Occasionally, IKEA uses post-consumer recycled glass—the kind that comes back from people's homes—but this requires specific and meticulous treatment to ensure safety. Since BACKIG comes in contact with food, it's designed to be as safe as possible, passing particularly rigorous health and safety tests.
"BACKIG is good thinking," says Daniel. "The material is there and it's safe, so we should do something good with it."