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.
In 2014, we got an invitation, along with other manufacturers of blinds, to meet with the Consumer Product Safety Commission – a governmental agency in the United States. They wanted to discuss how to prevent accidents with blinds that have accessible cords, and what possibilities there were to create something better. One of our Product Engineers, Bo Zhang, remembers it well. “We decided to immediately stop selling blinds with cords and only sell cordless ones.”
The decision meant some frustrated customers who wondered where the traditional blinds had gone. But it also meant that change was on the way. Bo and the team tried several different solutions until they came up with one that provided the same functionality as blinds with visible cords. “We realized we could keep the cord, but hide it,” he explains. The cord is inside a plastic rod that’s expandable and reinforced with strong glass fiber. When you pull it, you adjust the blind. “It’s safe, exact, and still at a low price,” says Bo proudly. The rod has not only been tested by our own lab, but also independent test labs. In addition, customers have checked the functionality. “By involving different people and organisations, we’ve made sure FRIDANS and the rod can meet the toughest demands – in every market,” says Bo. “The rod allows parents to create a safer environment for the youngest family members. When you live with children, that’s one important part of a better life at home,” he finishes.
The rod has not only been tested by our own lab, but also independent test labs. In addition, customers have checked the functionality. “By involving different people and organisations, we’ve made sure FRIDANS and the rod can meet the toughest demands – in every market,” says Bo. “The rod allows parents to create a safer environment for the youngest family members. When you live with children, that’s one important part of a better life at home,” he finishes.
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.