Swedish furniture giant Ikea announced Thursday that it will buy back used furniture for residents who no longer need it as part of a new recycling program aimed at combating global warming.
“We are convinced that if we take a business-as-usual approach, we will never reach the target of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Ikea CEO Peter Agnefjäll said in a statement. “We know this will mean changes in consumer behavior.”
Ikea’s idea is to provide consumers with a transparent option for disposing of their used furniture. Customers will be able to bid on items in an online auction held on Ikea’s website.
For each unit sold, Ikea will pay the supplier twice the wholesale value to create new furniture. The auction will run until the end of January and the selected sellers will receive a guaranteed minimum price.
“We will do our best to honor it,” Agnefjäll said.
One supplier will also win a fully automated production line for new furniture, including all the environmental components, Agnefjäll said. The winning manufacturer will begin production in 2021.
“We believe we are capable of what is impossible with all our knowledge of cutting down the production of planet-damaging materials like wood, plastics and packaging,” Agnefjäll said.
The new program is part of Ikea’s larger efforts to reduce its environmental impact by diverting waste away from landfills and sources of carbon emissions. The company uses a mix of renewable energy sources, including hydroelectric, wind and solar. In 2017, Ikea installed solar panels on 68 buildings worldwide that will be able to generate almost 2.5 million kilowatt hours per year of renewable electricity.
“It is not just an environmental project – it’s a way of business,” Agnefjäll said.
Ikea has faced criticism from environmental groups like the environmental group Greenpeace for using environmentally harmful materials in its products. In a report released in 2015, Greenpeace called the company’s use of faux leather in items like couches and chairs “an extreme form of greenwashing.”
Ikea responded by announcing last year that the company would phase out the use of leather in its furniture entirely by 2030.
The production of waste has been a widespread problem in many parts of the world. Ikea only has a partial picture of the global waste problem. Approximately 45 percent of world trade comes from China. Although Chinese companies still only produce only 5 percent of world trade, they produce 50 percent of global waste.
The nation is the world’s largest producer of waste water, according to Greenpeace. And the waste water contains toxic chemicals that “sometimes are linked to death.”
Ikea’s plan is just one more sign of the global overconsumption problem.
“Ikea’s plan to buy used and wasted furniture to prevent the dumping of toxic, plastic and wood products in the ocean is a small but commendable step toward solving one of our biggest environmental problems,” said Teresa Hoen, the executive director of the Swedish environmental group Hardwood.