A portrait of Stefan Månsson, Material & Innovation Development Manager at Inter IKEA Group.

Towards using only renewable and recycled materials

We are committed to becoming a circular business and enabling our customers to live a more sustainable life. To make this a reality, one of our ambitions is to move towards the use of renewable and recycled materials by 2030, and to design products that are recyclable. We talked to Stefan Månsson, Material & Innovation Development Manager at Inter IKEA Group, to find out how far we have come on our journey and what exciting developments lie ahead.

In a world of limited resources, we want to create a circular system where nothing is wasted, and old products become new resources.

Why does the IKEA business aim to use only renewable and recycled materials in its product range?

“Renewable and recyclable materials are prerequisites for a circular society. In a world of limited resources, we want to create a circular system where nothing is wasted, and old products become new resources.”

“By working with others and challenging ourselves, our goal is not only to provide new solutions for customers to prolong the life of products and materials, but also to positively impact the supply chain at IKEA and transform how industries work.”

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

“We have come a long way in avoiding unnecessary material consumption – today, about 55% of the materials we use are renewable, and 17% are recycled. Our focus is on making “more from less” without compromising on quality or functionality, e.g., by building lightweight constructions, such as our popular table LACK and our storage system PLATSA.”

A light brown honeycomb paper construction with a particle board frame.
By using fibreboard with a particle board frame and honeycomb paper as filling material, we use less wood per product.
A blue sofa, a beige rug and two white LACK tables in different sizes, one with a glass vase with dried grass decorations.
The LACK table tops are made of particleboard, 100% recycled honeycomb structure paper filling and fibreboard.
“In addition to wood being a truly renewable material, recycled wood will play an even more important role going forward. In parallel, we are increasing the proportion of recycled content in other materials used for our products, like aluminium, plastics and textiles. The amount of recycled content in aluminium has, for example, increased to about 55% thanks to the collaboration with our dedicated furniture suppliers.”

What are some of the challenges on this journey?

“One is that not all materials have renewable or recycled alternatives. Another is that the production capacity for alternatives can be limited or fossil-based. In addition, some of the physical properties of materials do not allow for 100% recycled or renewable. Take plastic, for example – there are enormous amounts of plastic littering the ground and oceans. However, there are still few places that have plastic waste available in central locations, segregated and ready to be used in different recycling processes. We are highly dependent on well-functioning waste collection practices, which are integral to creating a circular material flow.”

An IKEA co-worker is throwing a large bundle of transparent plastic into a recycling container outdoors.

We work closely with partners to drive innovation projects and engage with the industries to tackle these challenges together.

How does IKEA drive the material agenda towards renewable and recycled?

“Our work is focused on the materials with the largest climate footprint, e.g., exchanging fossil components in glue used for particle board production, candles and plastic, and how to increase the share of recycled material in, e.g., metal, fibreboard, plastic and ceramics. This work also leads us to identify new feedstocks of materials that have a lower climate footprint and are more affordable, e.g., plant-based materials like soy, rapeseed, agricultural waste or different types of starch.”

“Despite the challenges, we remain persistent and maintain our high ambitions. We work closely with partners to drive innovation projects and engage with the industries to tackle these challenges together.”

Can you share some examples of the above?

“Sure, I am impressed by how IKEA uses materials in a responsible way. 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 and is sourced in a responsible way. Pine is a typical IKEA wood material, it’s bright, affordable, and fits well with the IKEA expression. Pine will be a key IKEA material for the future too and one that we will continue to use in the best of ways.

For the IKEA food range, we explore many avenues of alternative proteins to complement and eventually transform IKEA range from animal to plant based.

HUVUDROLL plant balls being fried in a black frying pan on an induction hub. A hand is sprinkling chopped parsley over them.
The plant-ball HUVUDROLL is both a delicious dish with a significantly lower climate footprint compared to a meat-based ball.

Another aspect we are addressing is carbon black, a pigment colour that is used in plastic material. This pigment cannot be detected in existing recycling process, hence the plastic waste is not recycled but rejected and incinerated instead. We believe in the circular movement where plastic can be recycled rather than incinerated. Hence we are discontinuing the use of carbon black and will work on other pigments to give us dark colours.”

Lastly, can you share what’s new in material innovation?

“IKEA is among the first in the industry to take the lead in recycling fibreboard. The process of recycling fibreboard such as MDF or HDF has been challenging due to the impact on the recycled fibre quality. Today, IKEA has a process that allows us to reuse fibre in products without affecting material performance or quality. Together with key industrial partners, we are exploring how we can create new sorting processes and develop efficient waste streams to deliver high-quality recycled material. We have, for example, great hopes for recycled fibreboard that carries both a lower cost and climate footprint – truly affordable and more sustainable.”

A flat, golden beige/yellow fibreboard surface.
Fibreboard is a stable and durable material made of leftover wood from the wood industry. By using a renewable material like wood fibre, we avoid using fossil or finite materials.