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.
We ordered a study that focused on children aged 8-12 from all around the world. From that we tried to make something that fitted in both with what kids want, and what the parents think the kids need as well.
A worldwide study on what kids want
Child and adolescent psychotherapist Dr Barbie Clarke and her research agency Family Kids & Youth carried out the global study.
"Early adolescence is an important phase because it's a slow move towards autonomy and independence,” says Barbie.
“There's this huge growth happening that requires a lot of energy. It's not a joke that they really can't wake up in the morning!"
One of the big findings was that kids wanted a place to relax and retreat, while still being close to their parents (who still are their biggest influence), even if hanging out with friends is a growing focus.
"The bedroom also becomes a place for entertaining with friends. The phrase 'chilling out' was something that we heard around the world. 'Oh, I just want to chill out' is a key desire".
Furniture made to be spontaneous
Building on the research, the work began.
We designed SLÄKT to be super modular and adaptable, as well as easy to move around if say a bunch of friends come over.
After we tested everything for safety we asked children for their feedback. Then we changed certain designs to be even easier to use and relax with.
The kids favorite: a fold out mattress that can be stored under the bed and brought out whenever it’s chill out time. Kids seem to just sort of fall on it. No communication, just 'aaah!'.
Virgin vs recycled polyester
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.
Some challenges with recycled polyester
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.
Only recycled polyester
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.
What is foam?
Foam is excellent as upholstery in seating and mattresses since it provides good comfort and can relieve pressure by moulding to the body. Depending on the properties and feel you’re looking for, there are several qualities to choose from, like high-resilience foam and memory foam. The raw material for foam was previously based entirely on virgin fossil materials. But today, together with our suppliers, we’ve begun developing a material that is renewable and recycled.