Plastic is a key material for IKEA and remains so going forward. It is strong, durable, lightweight and versatile. It is a main component in a large amount of our products and has a wide variety of applications from surface materials such as paint and foil, to screws and shelf pegs.
There is a lot of valid concern regarding how plastic impacts the environment and at IKEA we take this very seriously. As part of our larger circular journey and transition from virgin fossil based material, we are working hard to change all plastic in our home furnishing products to plastic made from recycled and/or renewable raw materials.
The Thai Binh Province in Northeast Vietnam, with its subtropical climate and broad coastal plains, is an excellent place for growing rice. The rice colours the landscape intensively lush and is an important source of income for inhabitants. But the villages around the province are also well-known for their rich traditions and great craftsmanship, not least in terms of different types of weaving, crochet and knitting. In the middle of one of these villages there are two weaving centres where experienced craftsmen crochet our SÖTHOLMEN cushion cover by hand.
Someone who has visited the village and these weaving centres is Anton Löfstedt who lives in the southern part of the country. Together with his colleagues at IKEA in Vietnam, he works closely with various suppliers to ensure good production and a good working environment.
"The weaving centres in this village complement the income that the village inhabitants earn from agriculture", explains Anton. "At the same time, the workplace's flexible working hours mean that they can still spend time on agriculture when needed, like planting rice and taking care of fruit trees."
Anton says that the central location in the village is a great advantage since the craftsmen are close to their homes and children. Inside each weaving centre there is a view of the village and the lush landscape.
SÖTHOLMEN is made of polypropylene, a plastic used for things like food packaging, and it is totally harmless. The material is dyed before it is spun into a fibre thread so that the colour becomes part of the fibre and doesn’t just colour the surface. It’s a technique that makes the colour long lasting, even if the cushion cover is exposed extensively to strong sunlight.
Traditionally, different types of natural fibres are used in the Vietnamese village, but the same methods can be applied to materials such as polypropylene. The actual crocheting is based on deep-rooted, well-known techniques ‒ and a cushion cover takes just around three hours to complete for an experienced craftsman.
"The production of SÖTHOLMEN means that the traditions and ways of life in this village thrive and survive", explains Anton. "And as the cushion cover lies on your sofa, it’s interesting to think about how it reflects the unique touch of the craftsman who made it.”
Plastic is most commonly derived from oil and gas, which are non-renewable fossil sources. These sources do not renew themselves and will eventually be depleted.
Our ambition is that by 2030, all plastic used in our products will be based on renewable or recycled materials. Renewable plastic is made from materials such as vegetable oil, corn, wheat grain and sugar cane. Recycled plastic allows us to give a second life to non-biodegradable products such as PET bottles that would otherwise end up in landfill. Using recyclable sources also lessens our dependency on oil as a raw material.
Currently more than 40% of our plastic products are based on recycled and renewable materials and our aim is to reach 100%. As we add products made from recycled and renewable materials to our offer, we hope to inspire other companies to do the same.
Single-use plastic items pollute ecosystems if not disposed of responsibly. As part of our commitment to people and the planet, all single-use plastic products from the global home furnishing range were phased out in 2020. This includes items such as plates, cups and plastic straws offered in our restaurants, bistros, and cafes. These were replaced by disposables made from 100% renewable sources.
Polythylene terephthalate (PET) and Polypropylene (PP) are durable, hygienic and shatter-resistant plastics. They absorb very little water and have good chemical resistance. Both PET and PP can be reused and recycled, which reduces waste and gives the product several lives through use and reuse.
PET is the most recycled plastic in the world and can be used for many different purposes such as plastic bottles and containers for packaging food and beverages as well as for personal care products, pharmaceuticals and many other consumer products. At IKEA we mainly use recycled PET in boxes, filling material for textiles and kitchen front foil.
PET is approved by health-agencies as safe to use for food and beverage. IKEA uses recycled PET that is post-consumer based, which means it is based on collected and sorted PET bottles.
IKEA takes product safety very seriously and all products are tested and comply with the strictest possible laws and safety standards on all IKEA markets. Customers should always feel confident that products bought at IKEA are safe and healthy to use. IKEA wants to minimize or totally refrain from the use of chemicals and substances that can be harmful to people and the environment.
Our journey towards only using recycled or renewable plastic will take some time and require new ways of doing things, but we are determined to take responsibility and find new solutions. We want to give our customers the possibility to choose products made from more sustainable materials that can be recycled again one day. Together, we can make a big difference!