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.
Antony Smith, an engineer from England, remembers when he joined IKEA and the small team that develops our taps and showers. "I realized we practice what we preach about sustainability," Antony says. "It's a refreshing experience, but it makes our job really difficult because we genuinely have to deliver on sustainability with each product."
So, why conserving water? Because no organism on earth can survive without it, and no new water is created. It's constantly recycled, but our freshwater supply is overused and not evenly distributed. It’s impacted by pollution, contamination and climate change, too. "Those of us who live where you can just turn on your tap may not think about saving water; it's taken for granted," Antony says.
Behind the scenes, we constantly explore new ways to improve water efficiency. That includes providing factory workers and their families with fresh drinking water, ensuring all factory water is cleaned before release, reducing water usage in textile production and using rainwater to flush toilets in stores. And now we are working on new taps using sensors and spray technology – and new water-efficient showers – to save even more. Every water-saving action adds up.
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!