Lena Pripp-Kovac, Head of Sustainability at the Inter IKEA Group.

Towards using only renewable and recycled materials

We are committed to becoming a circular business and empowering our customers to live a healthier and more sustainable life. To make this a reality, one of our ambitions is to use only renewable and recycled materials by 2030. We talk to Lena Pripp-Kovac, Head of Sustainability at the Inter IKEA Group, to find out how far we’ve come on our journey and what exciting developments lie ahead.

Why is the IKEA business committed to using only renewable and recycled materials in its product range?

“Renewable and recycled materials are prerequisites for a circular society. In a world of limited resources, we want to move away from the linear model of ‘take, make, waste’, to a circular system where nothing is wasted and where old products become new resources. Our ambition is to inspire and enable our customers to live better everyday lives, within the limits of the planet, so the materials we use are a key aspect of this.”

Currently, 60% of the materials we use are renewable and 10% are recycled. The ambition is to reach a combined total of 100% by 2030.

Lena Pripp-Kovac, Head of Sustainability at the Inter IKEA Group

Where is the IKEA business on its journey towards using only renewable and recyclable materials?

“We’ve made some good progress. Currently, 60% of the materials IKEA uses are renewable and 10% are recycled. The ambition is to reach a combined total of 100% by 2030.

We already use a lot of renewable wood-based materials, and we’re increasing the amount of recycled materials such as recycled plastic in our products. Our aim is to avoid unnecessary material consumption, with a focus on making more from less by building lightweight constructions, such as our popular table LACK and our storage system PLATSA.

Glass cylinders filled with particles of recycled wood and recycled PET-bottles, alongside plastic bottles ready for recycling.
We need to start seeing PET bottles and other material that has been disposed of as useful resources rather than just waste.

We’re also in the process of phasing out all single-use plastic products from our home furnishing range globally. This includes straws, plates, cups and freezer bags. By next year, IKEA will be a single-use plastic-free zone.”

So you say the IKEA business already uses 60% renewable materials and 10% recycled materials. Can you give any examples?

“Sure! One of my favourites is the HIDRASUND mattress which contains lyocell, a fabric made from wood pulp. Wood is an important raw material for us, as it’s renewable and an excellent environmental choice, provided that it comes from responsibly managed forests. It’s our ambition only to use wood from more sustainable sources. The mattress also uses springs that are partly made of recycled steel, and renewable materials such as natural latex and coconut fibre. The natural fibres regulate body temperature, making it really comfy to sleep on.

Another great product is the children’s lamp TROLLBO, which has a lampshade and other elements made from recycled PET bottles.”

A girl sleeping in a beige bed with an IKEA HIDRASUND beige mattress which contains lyocell, a fabric made from wood pulp.

Why’s that?

“Well, it’s a challenge to make recycled plastic translucent. Our product development team had to play around with different grades of PET bottles to achieve this, but they succeeded in the end and the result is great.”

What are the challenges?

“There are always challenges when you’re trying to achieve change, and one of the bigger ones we’ve faced is finding enough clean recycled materials.

One hand holding a mix of recycled wood, and a second hand holding plastic particles made of recycled PET.
With these new materials we can avoid using an oil-based plastic and achieve more sustainable products.

Another big challenge is that some of the materials used today, such as ceramics, are not renewable or recyclable, and there are no alternatives to them as yet. Despite this, we still maintain our high ambitions to meet the challenges and find new solutions. We are also working closely with our partners to increase the availability of both renewable and recycled materials.”

You are currently working on a completely new textile fibre technology. Tell us more about that.

“It’s a new innovative technology we’ve developed in collaboration with partners such as the H&M group: it’s based on cellulose from wood that we call TreeToTextile. Textile developments using cellulose are thought to have great potential to replace or complement both cotton and oil-based fabrics like nylon or polyester. The project is still in its research phase, but we are now taking the first steps to industrialising the technology.”

When will we see TreeToTextile in the IKEA range?

“It’s too early to say, but our ambition is to use the new fabric in our range within the next couple of years.”