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Ikea takes eco-friendly approach, wants to use rice straw to make its products

The Swedish furniture giant wants to turn rice straw — a rice harvesting residue traditionally burnt and contributes to air pollution — into a new renewable material source for Ikea products through its ‘Better Air Now's initiative

Swedish furniture brand Ikea, with an aim to tackle crop stubble burning, a burning environmental issue, has launched its ‘Better Air Now’ initiative as part of which it wants to turn rice straw into a new renewable material source for its products.

Rice straw is a rice harvesting residue that is traditionally burnt and contributes heavily to air pollution. Starting off in India, the aim is to create a model to reduce air pollution that could be replicated in other mega cities.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 90% of people worldwide breathe polluted air and it is estimated to cause seven million deaths per year. India is one of the world’s most polluted countries and North India has 9 of 10 most-polluted cities in the world. The burning of rice straw, a residue from rice harvesting, is a major contributor to air pollution and smog in India. With the ‘Better Air Now’ initiative, Ikea wants to take action on this air pollution issue by turning rice straw into a new renewable raw material source for products.

Helene Davidsson

“The health effects of air pollution are severe and at Ikea we are determined to contribute to a solution. We know that burning of rice crop residue is a major pollution source and with this initiative we hope that will change. If we can find a way to make use of rice straw it would become a valuable source for the farmers instead of being burnt, which in the end also would contribute to better air for people,” said Helene Davidsson, Sustainability Manager South Asia, Ikea Purchasing.

Working closely with central and state governments in India, private companies, innovators, NGOs, the UN, universities, suppliers and farmers, the long-term ambition for Ikea is to contribute to villages reaching zero rice straw burning.

For many years, Ikea has been working on reducing air pollution from its own operations by phasing out hazardous chemicals and tackling air emissions. Earlier this year, it was also announced that Ikea is developing air purifying curtains and air purifiers.

“Ikea works continuously to contribute and enable healthy and sustainable living. One of our main priorities is clean air and the ‘Better Air Now’ initiative is an important step on this journey,” said Lena Pripp-Kovac, Sustainability Manager, Inter IKEA Group.

As a first step, the initiative focuses on the northern parts of India and the Delhi and the surrounding region, one of the world’s most air polluted areas with cities like Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad. The ambition is to expand the initiative to other areas of the country and to create a model to reduce air pollution to replicate in other megacities of the world.

The first Ikea product prototypes based on rice straw will be ready by the end of 2018 and the ambition is to start selling the products in Ikea India during 2019-2020, and gradually include more markets.

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