Today’s Solutions: January 25, 2022

As the environmental burden of our excessive use of plastic packaging is regularly making headlines these days, some companies are looking to set an example by transitioning towards more sustainable packaging materials.

One of the frontrunners leading this shift away from plastic is Ikea, which recently announced that all of its new products will come in plastic-free packaging by 2025, with a few exceptions related to food safety reasons. Its existing products are also expected to be packaged without any plastic by 2028, a move that’s part of Ikea’s broader goal to become a fully circular company by 2030.

Though much of the packaging will shift to paper, the firm is also exploring other viable alternatives. “Paper is a very good material to use because it does come from renewable sources, and it has quite strong circular capabilities,” says Maja Kjellberg, packaging solution engineer at Ikea.

“But we’re not limiting ourselves to paper. We do want to use other materials going forward. And we have an innovation program ongoing right now where we’re scouting on startups and scale-ups to find new ways of packing products and other materials that aren’t wood and fiber based,” adds Kjellberg.

The company has previously explored packaging made out of mycelium as a substitute for styrofoam, though for now, it’s too difficult for the manufacturers to make enough to cover Ikea’s huge line of products. The furniture maker is also exploring other sustainable packaging alternatives including materials made from food waste, such as byproducts of beer brewing. Recently, it has also started using waste from its own productions in some packages, including packaging for textiles sewn from scraps of the material, reports Fast Company.

About 90 percent of the 920,000 tons of packaging material that Ikea uses every year is made out of paper already. The remaining 10 percent is much more difficult to shift away from plastic. When it comes to its food products, for example, the company often has to use plastic both because of regulatory requirements and performance. With that said, it does plan to move away from virgin plastic made from fossil fuels and instead use recycled or plant-based material.

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