Yes, many of us have long snickered at the very thought of Ikea furniture and products – as this recent parody bit of John Oliver in this recent Saturday Night Live skit sums up. Of course, many of the snickering among us also shop at Ikea knowing the chances of running into anyone we know in those mazes disguised as retail showrooms are very low.
But Ikea has also been a leader on the sustainability front within the retail sector – for example, charging for plastic bags long before other retailers did the same, a move those chains generally made because of local ordinances. The company has also been a trailblazer on renewable power investments – so much so that earlier this year, Ikea said those projects were generating more power than it could use.
Speaking of plastic, today Ikea has announced that it will phase out all plastic from its consumer packaging by 2028. For example, those light bulbs encased in plastic blister packs that foment wrap rage? Well, now they are arriving on shelves packaged in paper boxes.
According to the company, plastic now only consists of less than 10 percent of Ikea’s total packaging needs by volume. Nevertheless, the company has disclosed it spends about 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) on 920,000 metric tons of packaging annually. Incorporating more renewable and recycled materials can help keep that tab down.
Most of the shift away from plastic packaging at Ikea will instead be toward paper-based materials. That won’t necessarily satisfy critics who argue that paper consumption drives deforestation worldwide – and much of the paper-based packaging produced worldwide ends up in landfill, especially it’s embossed with aluminum or lined with plastic. If (and that’s a massive if) paper waste streams are managed correctly, many global organizations have made the case that paper can be a part of the transformation toward a global circular economy. Again, we’re talking gargantuan if’s here.
Ikea insists this change in packaging will eventually be based on renewable and recycled materials – the details of which are vague for now. But in the grand scheme of things, and in comparison to other retailers, once again Ikea is a step or two ahead of its peers.
“Phasing out plastic in consumer packaging is the next big step on our journey to make packaging solutions more sustainable and support the overall commitment to reduce plastic pollution and develop packaging from renewable and recycled materials,” said Erik Olsen, the company’s packaging and identification manager at IKEA of Sweden. “The shift will happen progressively over the coming years, and mainly be focusing on paper as it is both recyclable, renewable, and widely recycled across the world.”
Image credit via Ikea
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.