IKEA is building a future without plastic packaging
Thanks to tiny parts and convoluted instructions, putting together an IKEA shelving unit can be an overwhelming experience. But there is a plus: what is stressful is stylish and also durable.
The Swedish retailer has been an environmental champion for years. In 2018, for example, it announced its intention to use only renewable and recycled materials in its products by 2030 and make all last mile deliveries via an electric vehicle by 2025. From 2020 onwards , it no longer uses single-use plastic in its stores. or restaurateurs. And earlier this year, it committed to selling solar panels and renewable energy to customers in all of its markets over the next four years.
But IKEA’s environmental commitment is not yet fully assembled. Like a piece of corporate furniture a few hours after a customer brings it home, it continues to assemble. The final piece of the puzzle: IKEA has announced that it will begin phasing out the use of plastic packaging for its products.
The company will gradually wean itself off plastic packaging. First, it will eliminate plastic packaging from all new products by 2025. Then, by 2028, it will do the same with all existing products. The only place plastic will remain beyond 2028 is in certain food products, where plastic is needed to ensure food quality and safety.
“Phasing out plastic in consumer packaging is the next big step on our journey to make packaging solutions more sustainable and support the global commitment to reduce plastic pollution and develop packaging from renewable materials. and recycled, ”said Erik Olsen, IKEA packaging and identification manager in a statement. Press release. “The change will happen gradually over the next few years and will focus primarily on paper, as it is both recyclable, renewable and widely recycled across the world. ”
IKEA, which spends over $ 1 billion annually on around 920,000 tonnes of packaging material, has already significantly reduced the amount of plastic used in its packaging. To date, less than 10% of its packaging is made of plastic. To completely eliminate plastic, the company says it will need to partner with product development teams and suppliers around the world. He might even have to devise entirely new solutions.
“Ingenuity is part of the IKEA heritage, and packaging is by no means an exception in this regard,” said Maja Kjellberg, IKEA packaging development manager. “Moving away from plastic in our consumer packaging solutions will undoubtedly be a difficult task in the years to come. With this movement, we aim to drive packaging innovation and use our size and reach to positively impact the industry at large beyond our supply chain. “
IKEA wants to lead by example. But not all businesses are this proactive. Some American states have therefore decided to push companies addicted to plastic to sustainable packaging. Two states, in particular: Maine and Oregon, both of which have passed groundbreaking laws that require consumer packaging manufacturers to pay for the recycling and disposal of their products.
“The laws of Maine and Oregon are the latest applications of a concept called extended producer responsibility, or EPR,” explain authors Jessica Heiges and Kate O’Neill, researchers who study waste and how it can be removed. reduce, in an article for The Conversation. “Swedish scholar Thomas Lindhqvist formulated this idea in 1990 as a strategy to reduce the environmental impacts of products by making manufacturers responsible for the entire life cycle of products. “
Maine law, which comes into effect in 2024, requires manufacturers to pay into a fund based on the quantity and recyclability of packaging associated with their products. These funds will then be used to reimburse municipalities for eligible recycling and waste management costs, to invest in recycling infrastructure and to help citizens understand how to recycle.
Oregon’s law, which comes into effect in 2025, will require manufacturers to join stewardship organizations and pay fees that will be used to modernize Oregon’s recycling system.
“Producers do not always literally take back their goods under EPR regimes. Instead, they often make payments to an intermediary organization or agency, which uses the money to help cover the costs of recycling and disposing of the product, ”Heiges and O’Neill write. “Having producers cover these costs aims to encourage them to redesign their products in order to reduce waste. “
Whether EPR laws actually work is the subject of much debate. In the future, however, a combination of voluntary and regulatory measures may be the best way to encourage a low-waste economy.