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.
When product designer Wiebke Braasch became a mother, she experienced the challenge of feeding a baby first-hand. First, there was the mess. Then there was the distress of watching her son struggle heroically to get peas from his plate to his mouth only to have them fall off at the last moment. It inspired her, and the result are BÖRJA and SMÅGLI – baby tested and approved.
Learning to eat is important for developing fine motor skills, and Wiebke felt that better tools could give babies and their parents some help along the way. She pooled her insights with product designer Ina Tidbeck Sjöblom, and together they began to sketch out ideas and carry out feeding and eating tests with babies and their parents. “We visited families in their homes and observed children being fed and feeding themselves,” Wiebke explains. “We wanted to find out what kind of spoons, plates and cups they used, how they used them and how they felt about them.” They watched as the babies explored everything – squishing the food, banging the cup on the table and moving the plate around. Much of the food ended up anywhere and everywhere but the babies’ mouths. Porridge was on the floor. Fruit and vegetable purées of every color were on clothes, on baby faces and in hair.
“Our research confirmed our experiences at home,” Wiebke says. “We understood the parents’ desire for less cleanup and a more meaningful experience with their children. Based on that, we created tools with shapes that help babies learn more quickly and make feeding easier and less messy.” They gave the SMÅGLI plate and bowl high sides and an inward curve, so when children push food against the sides it practically falls back into their spoons, instead of over the edge. In tests, they observed how attempts to keep plates on the table – with suction – failed spectacularly and resulted in the children fighting to pull the plates off the table. Once they got them loose, which they always did, the parents had to clean food off of walls, instead of floors. So the materials – heavy on top and soft on the underside – are also carefully chosen to help the plate and bowl sit firmly on the table.
The BÖRJA feeding spoon was given a long handle for reaching to the bottom of baby food jars, and a sharp angle between the handle and bowl of the spoon that's adapted to the feeding movement. Babies hold a spoon with their whole hand, switch hands often and eat from the sides of a spoon more often than from the front, so the BÖRJA baby spoon has a short and chunky handle for a better grip and a shallow, wide design to make it easier for them to get the spoon in their mouths from any angle. The spout of the BÖRJA training cup has been given very small holes instead of the typical spill-proof mechanism. The tight-fitting lid prevents big spills, but when turned upside down, liquid can still run out through the spout. This also lets children control the flow of liquid themselves. And since we found that children like to see what they’re drinking, part of the cup is transparent.
“We only create products that meet the highest safety standards and that we feel confident about using with our own children. They are made from the same safe plastic material as baby bottles and have no BPA added. We tested the prototypes and the final products at home, and we are convinced that SMÅGLI and BÖRJA will help other parents make eating sessions less messy and time-consuming – and much more enjoyable,” Wiebke concludes. “This is design based on real life experiences to improve the daily life of babies and their parents.”
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!