Maja on moving away from plastic packaging
Plastic is one of the most popular packaging materials in the world. But single-use plastic packaging can, in the worst case, end up as waste that pollutes our environment and is not recycled as much compared to paper packaging. That is why IKEA has decided to phase out plastic from consumer packaging by 2028. We talked to Maja and Tommi about material innovation, replacing plastics and how coconut husk, beer brewing by-products or shellfish industry waste might hold the answer to more sustainable packaging.
Maja loves going to the supermarkets. But it's not for the love of shopping like it is for a lot of us. The packaging development leader at IKEA often goes to an array of corporate and boutique supermarkets for one reason - to see the way they pack their products and get inspired.
"I find it very interesting to observe that a lot of us don't quite pay attention to how products are packaged. We just pick them," says Maja Kjellberg.
So, then what is her favourite packaging?
"The best packaging is no packaging or something as close as possible to no packaging and doesn't leave big amounts of waste," says Maja.
The flip side is that most plastics are not biodegradable, and when it is not disposed of responsibly, the environmental implications are severe. For example, it's estimated that over 86 million metric tons of plastic are currently in our oceans. If things don't change, there will be more plastic waste than fish by 2050.
Walking the talk
"Our ambition is to have a plastic-free solution for consumer packaging. Corrugated board as a packaging material is quite well known to IKEA. But it's not a standard solution for products like blinds. The shift also involves changing the mindset of suppliers, who have been using plastics, and those of the buyers, who have been picking blinds in see-through packaging," says Tommi.
The corrugated packaging for blinds is just the first step; more environmentally friendly packaging solutions in the space of textiles will follow soon.
IKEA has also changed the packaging for its light bulb range LEDARE and SOLHETTA. These used to come in blister packs earlier, including form-pressed plastic. The team decided to put the bulbs into small cartons to do away with plastics, making the package much easier for the customer to open.
But getting rid of plastics in packaging comes with its challenges, besides behaviour change for shoppers and suppliers.
The move to corrugated boards from see-through plastics for IKEA blinds is a good example of that. The change also increases the dimensions of the package, making it a pinch bulkier but with more protection, which is important as customers order more and more online.
Small challenges aside, Maja hopes to find ways to contribute to a world without plastic waste and enable people to make more sustainable choices.