Ikea, the world’s largest furniture chain, is to phase out single-use plastic products by 2020.
It will shun plastic straws, plates, cups, freezer bags and bin bags and plastic-coated paper plates and cups. Where possible, alternatives will be used.
The group intends that all the plastic products it handles will be made with recycled plastic by August 2020. It is already phasing out oil-based plastics.
To accelerate the changes Ikea has invested in its own plastics recycling plant.
The impact could be enormous. Ikea, founded and based in Sweden, has 363 outlets throughout the world, including the US, Canada, the UK, many European countries, Australia, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.
Other new objectives are aimed at encouraging sustainability among Ikea customers.
The retailer is to offer a tap nozzle that could save more than 90 per cent of the water used at present, and, by 2025, will sell solar panels in 29 markets, up from today’s five. It has already invested in wind farms and has placed solar panels on its store roofs as part of its policy of using only renewable power and heat by 2020.
For animal protection enthusiasts it will introduce more vegetarian dishes into its store cafes.
An Ikea spokesperson said: “We don’t have all the answers yet but we are working together with our suppliers to find solutions that are good for both people and the planet.”
Torbjörn Lööf, chief executive of the parent Inter Ikea group, said: “Through our size and reach we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than a billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet.
“Change will only be possible if we collaborate with others and nurture entrepreneurship. We are committed to taking the lead, working together with everyone – from raw material suppliers all the way to our customers and partners.”
Elena Polisano, the Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner, welcomed Ikea’s efforts: “We now need to see other big retailers come up with ambitious plans to cut the amount of throwaway plastic on their shelves.
“With one truckload of plastic waste entering our seas every minute and spreading everywhere from the Arctic to the Antarctic and to the deepest point of the ocean, we need bold action, and fast.”
The UK Prime Minster Theresa May has undertaken to end avoidable plastic waste by 2042. Predictably environmentalists want the target brought forward.
A hopeful note, however, is that a number of large corporations are now taking more immediate action.
Reckitt Benckiser, the UK multinational consumer goods company, now best known as RB, whose brands include Finish, Calgon and Durex, has committed itself to remove or reduce plastic packaging, to invest in research into alternatives, and to ensure that by 2025 at least 25 per cent of any plastic packaging used is recycled plastic. By 2025 all its plastic packaging is to be recyclable or reusable.
RB, which claims its policy will save more than 1,000 tons of plastic annually, published these decisions to mark World Environment Day.
The UK supermarket group Iceland has decided to scrap plastic packaging on own-brand products by 2023.
Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket group, aims to stop using non-recyclable plastic packaging from next year, and the upmarket grocer Waitrose is phasing out black plastic trays, as they are difficult to recycle.
Quorn, the UK meat substitute company, is to remove 297 tons of unrecyclable black plastic from its supply chain by the end of June 2018. It intends to use only recyclable, reusable or compostable plastic by 2025. Chief executive Kevin Brennan said: “We view this as the right thing to do, despite the six-figure cost.”
On World Environment Day the UN reported that dozens of nations were acting to cut plastic use. Kenya has banned plastic bags, Sri Lanka styrofoam and China biodegradable bags.
The EU followed with proposals to ban single-use plastic products such as cotton buds and straws. Under the proposals all EU countries would have to collect 90 per cent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025.
Further afield, the Indian government made a commitment to ban single-use plastics by 2022.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that the quest for material prosperity cannot lead to environmental degradation.”