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.
But before we got that far ― even before looking at all the technical details ― we interviewed people in different countries about their bathrooms and shower habits. Then we understood how important a few minutes under spraying water can be. Since it's not just about being clean, getting in the shower can also be a way to rinse off stress and unwind ― to take a moment for yourself or just wake up to a new day. When you rub the sleep out of your eyes in the shower, the spraying water naturally helps. But did you know that only 3% of all water on the planet is freshwater? And most of it is actually bound in ice. Since this limited freshwater is a vital resource for all of life, we must help to nurture it.
This is where the shower range comes in. We want to make it simple to save water and energy. With smart technology, the thermostatic mixer and shower arm make this simple. Antony Smith, who was part of the shower development team, has worked with mixers and showers since he finished university long ago. He describes the thermostatic mixer as the shower's engine "It's the mixer which ensures that there's an even water flow and the right temperature". Antony explains that it's thanks to the thermostatic mixer that your shower water is not affected if someone turns on the water in the kitchen. You can calmly continue singing in the shower ― without the risk of being burned or getting a cold shock. The mixers that the team developed also have a 38°C safety stop button, so there's no risk of you or any child accidentally raising the temperature.
Another important key to creating both a comfortable and sustainable shower range is the small washer that sits in the shower arm which regulates the water flow. The challenge for the team was to find just the right balance between the water flow and pressure, so that you can use less water without affecting the shower experience. There was only one way for the team to see if they succeeded: "When we went to the supplier in China to test the first prototypes, we all packed our swimwear," says Antony smiling. With his swimwear on, he tested different water spray functions: full, mesh, mist, massage and various combinations of them. "How people prefer to shower is individual, and with the different streams, we allow everyone to adapt their shower experience. And maybe you'll enjoy showering a little more when you know that it's both water and energy efficient."
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!