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06/08/2020 The Communication Science magazine

IKEA says no to single-use plastic products by 2020

A new competitive business model: big players are encouraged to say no to single-use plastics.


The media have recently seen an outcry of sustainability needs both in (business) industries and the environment. Interests for eradicating single-use plastic bags have been on the rise and now IKEA is on in it, too. Last thursday (June 7th), The Guardian published an article on IKEA’s commitment to integrate sustainability-friendly products by eliminating single-use products by 2020 – just two days after World Environment Day. This is a big step forward for major business chains in making the move towards a more sustainable future – it might even inspire other leading industries to aim for the same.

IKEA and their environmental pledge
Governments globally have recognised the significant needs to address marine pollution as the proliferation of plastic bags have infiltrated the marine ecosystems. Countries have started to introduce levies and bans to fight against the issue. In the process, they have inspired IKEA to do the same by firstly eliminating plastic straws, bags and other single-use plastic items, also to promote their larger environmental pledge to become “people and planet positive” by 2030.

Business industries are shifting their focus, to find ways in which production and consumption can operate in a circular, rather than a linear model. Previous business models relied on single-use products to gain profit; fast production allowed for a place in the competitive industry. Nowadays, business models appreciate a circular mode of production whereby products sold can still be repaired, reused, and renewed instead of getting thrown away.

Business industries are shifting their focus, to find ways in which production and consumption can operate in a circular, rather than a linear model

IKEA’s new way of production in working towards their environmental pledge is integrated in their product designs in optimising for quality and longevity and as such reparation, reselling and/or recycling of materials are valued. In further encouraging their environmental pledge on to consumers, they will also offer more plant-based meals and snacks in their restaurant.

World Environment Day
In accordance to World Environment Day on June 5th as declared by the UN, this year’s theme is “beat plastic pollution”. Plastic pollution accumulates in coastlines, forests, industrial areas, rivers, etc. – this is an alarming sign to start focusing on reducing, if not exterminating, the existence of single-use plastics. BBC News published an article on the actions of over 50 countries in restricting the use of plastics. In the article, head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said the following: “[…] Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

The biggest report on plastic pollution so far found that levies and taxes that are properly planned and enforced are among the most effective strategies to restrict plastic waste. In Ireland, there was a 90 percent decrease in plastic usage once tax was imposed. In China, the usage decreased by 60 to 80 percent in supermarkets, although finding accurate figures for informal markets was not gathered. In Vietnam, the government aims to increase levies five times in order to yield an extreme change in behaviour towards plastic use.

In Ireland, there was a 90 percent decrease in plastic usage once tax was imposed

Governments are slowly influencing businesses by encouraging them to adopt a similar environmental agenda. This just goes to show that collaboration between different actors is needed to incite change and further maintain it. “Change will only be possible if we collaborate with others and nurture entrepreneurship. We are committed to taking the lead working together with everyone – from raw material suppliers all the way to our customers and partners,” said Torbjörn Lööf, the chief executive of IKEA’s parent inter group.

Cover: Michael Coghlan/Final editing: Kevin Hesp

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