IKEA to launch first ever sustainable second-hand store

Old furniture will be repurposed and resold in the first ever second-hand IKEA store. It’ll be ready to visit by the end of 2020.

I’m sure you’ve probably bought and tried to build a flat-pack IKEA furniture set at least once in your life. They’re cheap, cheerful, and end up looking half decent most of the time, unless you accidentally lose a screw or stick parts together upside down. We’ve all been there.

But decorum advantages aside, IKEA creates a substantial amount of products that inevitably wind up having negative impacts on the environment. IKEA uses roughly 1% of the entire world’s wood supply a year. In 2018 alone it managed to sell $44 billion worth of goods and services, most of which was flat-pack wholesale furniture.

We tend to buy IKEA items on a relative short-term, one time basis. You’ll likely replace the stuff you’ve purchased within three to five years and we often dump old items in landfill or throw them in a skip with little thought. The company is trying to test out ways to tackle this problem with the announcement of its first ever second-hand store that will open by the end of 2020. Just make sure to pack your mask and keep your distance when you arrive.

The shop is the first of its kind and is located in Sweden.  Damaged furniture and decorative items from other branches nearby can be brought here and repurposed. This is a prototype store that’s intended to adapt and change with time, eventually giving IKEA a good idea of how to commercialise second-hand shops for the wider public. You can already bring old items into regular shops right now, but this is the first time we’ve seen the company use a site solely for this purpose.

IKEA has big plans for the next decade alongside testing the re-use of older products, and its flat-pack kits do have environmental merits worth mentioning.

For example, they use less wood than standard, more expensive pre-built chairs and tables, and the minimal packaging required means more product can be shipped at one time, lowering the overall carbon footprint of each individual purchase. IKEA’s biggest problem is its overall size. It’s a huge force and environmental damage is unavoidable.

It purchased an entire Romanian forest in 2015 with the promise of doubling its sales but using half the amount of wood to create a more sustainable profit model. IKEA also announced a rental hire scheme in 2019 and will dabble in renting out kitchens and singular items to increase the longevity of its furniture. Vegan meatballs are even a thing in its cafes now because, why not?

The fact it’s such a big company also means it has a lot of power to influence the way smaller producers and suppliers do business – if IKEA demands all its furniture be sustainable, then manufacturers will bend to this whim. It’s pledged to decarbonise its entire delivery sector by 2025, and by 2030 it’s hoping to reduce its overall impact by 70%.

This new experimental shop will give IKEA more experience with processing and reworking older products, and it’ll be interesting to see how this idea expands further into the business over the next few years. We could be recycling entire kitchens and living rooms before long – which would be a huge boost to help out our forests.

For now, your best bet is to keep hold of the furniture you buy for as long as possible, and don’t just toss it out when you’re done. See if you can donate it, recycle it, or repurpose it at local charity shops and recycling firms.

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