How can we at IKEA contribute to more sustainable interior design? Would it be possible to save some of the earth's resources by using recycled trash? Product Developer Anna Granath and her kitchen colleagues contacted one of their best suppliers and together they explored the opportunities that trash has to offer. The result is KUNGSBACKA kitchen front made from recycled wood and recycled PET bottles.
Do you sometimes buy bottled water? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Each year, approximately 100 billion PET bottles are consumed worldwide and this number only reflects bottled water. Add soft drinks to the picture and the number is much higher. But what actually happens to all these bottles? Some of them, approximately 30%, are recycled as material for new products, while 70 billion bottles become trash in landfills or are discarded directly into the sea. The fact that so much plastic is thrown away is not sustainable for the world. This is partly because plastic is made from oil, a natural resource which will run out one day, and partly because it takes a very long time for plastic to break down. Did you know that it takes each bottle an astonishing 700 to 1,000 years to break down?
We need to be better at using the earth's resources wisely and we must start seeing billions of discarded PET bottles as the resource which they actually are. This is the standpoint of Anna Granath and her colleagues, who develop new kitchens for IKEA. "Our products are bought by a lot of people, and by offering more sustainable alternatives, we actually have the opportunity to contribute to a change," says Anna. "So we started looking at how we could replace new materials with recycled materials in our kitchen range." This idea was the run-up to a close cooperation with supplier and designers. Together they developed KUNGSBACKA kitchen front which consists of a particleboard made from recycled wood wrapped in plastic film made from recycled PET bottles. The big challenge was to get to know the properties of the plastic in order to achieve the same qualities as a virgin material. "The whole team behind the kitchen front is proud. We've all worked hard to not compromise on anything. Not when it comes to design, quality, functionality, or price, and especially not when it comes to the sustainability aspects. It feels great, deep down in the bottom of our hearts".
For each door's matt black surface, plastic from twenty-five 17 oz. bottles is used. This might not sound like a lot, but for Anna and her colleagues, KUNGSBACKA is an important first step on the journey towards an end to the use of virgin, oil-based plastic. "We must find alternatives for recycling which has a significant and long-lasting impact, where we don't just think about our generation, but for all generations to come". In KUNGSBACKA, the plastic bottles get a new life, but also a much longer life. You'll probably finish a bottle of water within 25 minutes. But if it’s recycled and converted into plastic film on a kitchen door or drawer front, the same plastic gets a lifetime of at least 25 years. And then a new recycled life hopefully awaits in a completely different context.