Swedish furniture giant Ikea has made a commitment to phase out plastics from all consumer packaging by 2028, and will develop more renewable and recyclable materials to support its transition. 

What is Happening? 

Ikea is committed to eliminating plastic packaging for all existing products by 2028, as part of the company’s larger goal to become more sustainable and transition into a circular economy.  

The move will be carried out in steps with the Swedish furniture giant committing to phasing out plastics from most consumer packaging by 2025, with the exception of some food products for health and safety standards and prevention of food waste. The company will use only renewable and recycled materials to package their goods and across their operations. 

“For many years, we’ve been using plastic, and it’s been driving costs down but also driving us further away from our sustainability goals,”  said Maja Kjellberg, packaging innovation leader at Ikea. “I think you have to really look at the range and to look at the specific product and see, [why] are we really using the plastic? In some cases, maybe there isn’t always a very clear reason, and then it’s actually quite easy to get rid of that plastic.”

Packaging is a significant feature of the retailer’s business model, allowing customers easy handling of large furniture items to small and fragile products such as light bulbs. Currently, Ikea devotes more than 1 billion euros a year on around 920,000 tons of packaging material. While the company has stopped using polystyrene for packaging inside boxes a few years back and replaced them with cardboard tubes and other paper supports, 10% of its products still use plastic packaging. 

One of the ways to transition away from plastics is exploring other packaging options. Ikea has previously looked into mushroom-based packaging, but found it too difficult for manufacturers to produce the scale of packaging the company needs. For now, paper looks to be the next best alternative. 

“Paper is a very good material to use because it does come from renewable sources, and it has quite strong circular capabilities,” Kjellberg explained. “But we’re not limiting ourselves to paper. We do want to use other materials going forward. And we have an innovation programme ongoing right now where we’re scouting on startups and scale-ups to find new ways of packing products and other materials that aren’t wood and fibre-based.”

However, Ikea plans to continue using plastics for some of its food packaging due to aforementioned issues. But as a solution, they plan to utilise recycled plastics or plant-based materials instead of virgin plastic made from fossil fuels. 

Aside from eliminating plastics from its consumer products, the furniture retailer has set a target to halve its absolute net greenhouse gas emissions across its entire company value chain by 2030. It also started selling electricity from renewable sources for households in Sweden this September, with plans to expand this service to other countries in the foreseeable future. 

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