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.
Martin Petri, who works with sustainability at IKEA, was in a rainforest in Borneo in 2016. It was hot and humid. The sound from surrounding wildlife resonated intensively in all directions. High up in a tree, he caught a glimpse of an orangutan dwelling – they were back. "In 1983, a forest fire destroyed 18,500 hectares of rainforest", says Martin. "When Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, heard about it he wanted to contribute to the restoration of the rainforest. That's why, since 1998, we've financed the project ‘Sow a seed’ which has led to more than 12,500 hectares of rainforest being replanted."
"Wild animals provide a sense of freedom, in particular for children living in urban environments", says child psychologist Barbie Clarke, who has extensively researched about children and their development. The natural habitats of the orangutan, panda, tiger and other DJUNGELSKOG animals are threatened. This concerns many children. "But they’re also curious and want to learn more about the animals", explains Barbie. That’s why DJUNGELSKOG includes a number of books, too.
Humans have the possibility to restore the natural habitats of animals and the biological diversity which provides balance in nature ─ just like in the rainforest Martin Petri visited. “’Sow a seed’ is one of the world’s largest rainforest projects, and has given involved researchers valuable knowledge which will be useful for other rainforests which have burned down or been felled", explains Martin. More rainforest in Borneo means more orangutans swinging between the trees with their long arms. What a beautiful sight.
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.