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Better planet

Becoming Circular

Today, across the world resources are being used at an unsustainable rate, faster than they can be renewed. Yet many valuable resources are wasted, or used just once before being discarded. One of the key ways this can be addressed is through a circular economy – where resources are continually reused, regenerated and recycled in a sustainable way. 

Using resources efficiently has always been part of how we work at IKEA and we want to play our part in making the circular economy a reality.  

IKEA is committed to become a circular business by 2030. This will impact the whole business from the products and services we offer our customers to the way we run our operations. 

Our approach

At Ingka Group, we are contributing to the IKEA commitment to become a circular business, by making changes in our business today and testing new business models for the future. This includes providing circular services that enable customers to reuse and repair products, and communicating the environmental attributes of the IKEA range to our customers to enable them to make more sustainable choices. 

We are also working to improve the way we run our buildings and operations, preventing and reducing waste and improving resource efficiency. 

Over half our climate footprint comes from raw materials, production, waste in our operations, and product end-of-life, so becoming a circular business and reducing waste will help us reach our ambitious climate goals. More efficient use of resources can also reduce costs for our business and enable customers to save money.  

Inter IKEA Group is responsible for integrating circular design principles into the IKEA range, including using more renewable and recycled materials, and designing products to be repurposed, repaired, reused and recycled. See IKEA website – Designing for a Circular Future and read more on progress in the IKEA Sustainability Report FY21. 

co-worker fixing old lamp

Progress and challenges in FY21

Key progress and challenges in FY21 included: 

  • We recycled 75.0% of waste, up from 71.5% in FY20. Increasing recycling rates at Ingka Centres meeting places remains challenging. Much of this waste is mixed consumer waste that tends to be contaminated (for example with food residue) and is harder to sort and recycle.  
  • We have reduced production food waste by 44.8% since 2017. This is the waste from our kitchens before the food is sold to our customers. 
  • We adopted and scaled up new circular solutions, including 170 circular hubs in 26 markets. Our spare parts service was used by 260,000 customers in FY21. 
Human shopping inside of an IKEA store

Buildings and operations

Our approach

We prioritise actions to prevent, reduce, reuse and recycle waste – landfill is always the last resort. Some waste is incinerated for energy recovery. We’re involved in several partnerships developing circular resource flows that can reduce the use of virgin materials. 

We have established a Zero Waste Working Group to help us improve performance on waste (including operational waste, product waste and food waste) and drive circular resource flows. This brings together co-workers from our retail and centres operations, and our sustainability, facility management, procurement and product recovery functions.  

Most of the waste we produce comes from our IKEA Retail operations, and around half of it is packaging material. The rest includes product waste (from damaged products or customer returns) and food waste from our restaurants and cafés.  

What we did in FY21

Operational waste

We aim to reduce our operational waste and to recycle 100% of waste generated in our operations by 2030.  

The total amount of waste we generated increased by 5.7% in FY21 compared with FY20, mainly due to an increase in product sales. Over the longer-term, the total amount of waste produced has fallen by 4.1% from FY17. This has been driven by waste reduction initiatives and is also partly due to fewer visitors to our stores and meeting places during the pandemic. However, waste from our distribution centres has increased by 38.9% from FY17 (and 12.7% from FY20) due to a larger number of customers switching to online shopping. 

In FY21, we recycled 75.0% of waste, up from 71.5% in FY20. The recycling rate varies across our business units (see chart), from 88.0% at our Distribution Centres, 77.8% in IKEA Retail and 38.6% at Ingka Centres. Increasing recycling rates at Ingka Centres meeting places is challenging because much of the waste is mixed consumer waste that tends to be contaminated (for example with food residue) and harder to sort and recycle. In some countries, a lack of recycling infrastructure makes it difficult for both businesses and consumers to recycle. 

Sustainability managers in each country track waste data monthly and work with store managers to spot issues and find solutions quickly. We also calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our waste production so we can report the climate impact of our waste streams.  

co-worker walking together outside

Product waste

Some of our products are returned by customers, damaged in transit before they reach the IKEA store or on the way to customers’ homes, or taken off display in store. We recover as many of these products as possible to give them a second life and stop them being wasted. In FY21, we gave 42 million products a second life, with 32 million sold via our circular hubs; see further details in Better homes section 

woman fixing an IKEA furniture

Food waste

We serve meals to many millions of people through our restaurants, cafes and bistros each year and we´ve made reduction food waste a priority. We are working towards our target of a 50% reduction in production food waste1 by 31 December 2021 (from FY17). This contributes to the Inter IKEA target, that covers all IKEA stores across the entire franchise system, to reduce production food waste by 50% by the end of 2022. This target deadline was extended from the original goal of 31 August 2020. Our food waste initiative led to a 44.8% reduction in production food waste by the end of FY21 (from FY17). 

Ingka Investments has a minority investment in Winnow, a UK company that has developed an innovative food waste tracking and analytics solution to reduce waste in commercial kitchens. We have now installed the system at 364 stores (94% of our total), up from 263 in FY20. It provides a smart weighting scale and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to recognise and track what has been discarded. Daily reports enable our co-workers to identify sources of waste and make substantial savings.

We have also explored ways to recycle and reuse food waste, including on-site compost bins at nine sites. We are also working with Too Good To Go, a social impact organisation dedicated to fighting food waste worldwide. Their app prevents food waste by enabling people to buy surplus food from restaurants and food stores at a discounted price. In FY21, we regularly placed surplus food on the app across six of our markets (Norway, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium), helping to prevent more than 167,000 meals from being wasted.  

To help our customers reduce food waste in their own kitchens, IKEA Canada launched a recipe  book dedicated to cooking with the little things we usually throw away. The IKEA Scraps Book (which includes a free digital version) features 50 recipes created in collaboration with chefs across North America 

co-workers having a conversation

Water use

We aim to use water efficiently in our business and are integrating water-saving technologies into the design of new sites. Our water efficiency measures apply to all our buildings, and we integrate additional measures at our locations in water stressed areas.  

Total water use remained stable in FY21 compared with FY20, but decreased by 4.3% from FY17. This has been driven by water saving initiatives and is also partly due to fewer visitors to our stores and meeting places as a result of the pandemic. However, water use at our distribution centres has increased by 20.0% from FY17 (and 22.9% from FY20) due to a larger number of customers switching to online shopping.  

co-worker are washing of his forks

Saving water at IKEA Japan

IKEA Japan aims to reduce water consumption by 30% by 2030 (from FY16) through water efficiency measures, rainwater harvesting and investing in water wells.  

A new water well has been created at the IKEA store in Kohoku, near Tokyo, which provides over 90% of the store’s water and has helped to significantly reduce water bills. The IKEA store at Shin Mistato, Greater Tokyo, also has a water well and a rainwater harvesting system on the roof,  which provide two-thirds of the store’s water. 

Partnering with suppliers

Beyond the home furnishing products designed and supplied by Inter IKEA Group, we buy goods and services from thousands of other suppliers, including for construction, delivery, IT and food.  We aim for all materials purchased for use in our business to be renewable, recyclable, and/or recycled by 2030. This means all plastics to be made from recycled or renewable sources and goods containing paper and wood for in-store customer use (such as the free IKEA pencil) to be made from recycled or Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified sources. We have created a roadmap to reach our 2030 ambition. In FY21, 95% of suppliers providing goods containing paper or wood for in-store customer use complied with our requirements.  Almost all single-use plastic items in our restaurants, bistros and cafés have already been phased out. We have also introduced a new recycling programme for old co-worker uniforms. 

We also monitor suppliers for compliance with the IKEA supplier code of conduct, IWAY, which sets out requirements on social, ethical and environmental issues (see better Company). 

co-workers packing up IKEA products


Giving new life to old uniforms

Our co-worker uniforms are hard-wearing, but even so, every uniform eventually needs to be replaced. Whenever we can, we recycle old uniforms extracting the fibres to be used in new products.  

For polyester-based materials, the first step is to remove buttons and zippers, then the fabric is cut into small pieces, shredded and formed into pellets that will become new polyester​. To date, fibres from our uniforms have been used for mattress production, and to make filling material for car insulation, roofing felts, loudspeaker cones, panel linings and furniture padding.​ 

During FY21, we introduced a new uniform across our markets and we are making recycling of old uniforms a priority. In many European countries recycling containers are being installed next to the pick-up points for new uniforms, making it easier for co-workers to drop off their old uniforms. These will be recycled into fibre for use in IKEA products. By the end of FY21, we had collected 55 tonnes of old uniforms for recycling.   

Old uniforms

Don’t waste the waste!​

In Russia, just 7% of the nation’s waste gets recycled, and there is a lack of recycling infrastructure. But our stores and distribution centres are bucking the trend – reaching a recycling rate of 75%. 

“Don’t Waste the Waste!” is an internal competition, encouraging stores and Distribution Centers to compete against each other to see who can recycle the most.  This has helped to drive up recycling rates from 62,7% in FY18 to 74,9% in FY21.   

Several closed loop projects have also been launched in Russia, including some in partnership with Inter IKEA. These include: 

  • 2,000 tonnes of cardboard recycled annually and used in the production of SMEKA, PAPPIS, and PINGLA boxes sold across Russia, UK, France, and Poland.  
  • 50 tonnes of processed wood recycled every year and used for making new wooden MALM and PAX products.  
  • Plastic bottles collected from customers in Moscow (at recycling points operated in collaboration with Ingka Centres) and given a second life as sofas and pillows. The recycled PET is used to replace virgin polyester in more than 400 locally produced products including GRALLSTA sofas, SUNNEA chair pads or VIPPARTpillows.  
praise with books
  • Cardboard corners (used for transporting products) recycled into parcel fillers to protect products during transportation.  
  • Old single-use cups recycled into new paper cup holders at our Khimki Moscow store.  

Our stores in Moscow and Saint Petersburg are offering a furniture take-back service, and have plans for mattress recycling and a new closed loop project for cardboard.

Circular services

We know our customers don’t like to be wasteful, and neither do we. By adopting and scaling up new circular solutions, we aim to help customers acquire, care for and pass on IKEA products in more sustainable ways.  

Key areas of progress in FY21 include: 

  • We implemented 170 circular hubs in 26 markets by the end of FY21, where customers can find out about our approach to circularity, buy second hand and nearly new furniture and get advice on how to maintain, clean and personalise their IKEA products.  
  • Through our Buy Back program, customers returned 155,000 pieces of old IKEA furniture to be resold or recycled. 
  • Our spare parts service was used by 260,000 customers in FY21, with 4.2 million spare parts provided. Our online ordering system for spare parts is now rolled out across 25 of our markets, enabling customers to more easily repair products without having to visit one of our stores or call our customer service centres. 
  • We continued testing furniture subscription services in several markets, to help us develop more circular ways for customers to access IKEA furniture without owning it. 
  • In early FY21, we began testing a store stocked entirely with second-hand IKEA products in Eskilstuna, Sweden. 

Read further details about our progress in FY21 in the Better Homes section

Love your stuff for longer

Ingka Centres had launched “Love your stuff for longer”. The initiative is designed to offer an alternative approach to Black Friday and Double 11 sales. It aims aims to inspire more conscious consumption and to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

Read more about our movements here

1 Production food waste covers food waste arising in our kitchens before the food is sold to our customers.