By Prarthana Mitra
Within a year of the setting up shop in India, Swedish furniture brand IKEA is already lending a hand in developing sustainable means of production while proposing a feasible solution to the country’s burgeoning air pollution.
Just days after Delhi complained of suffocating levels of pollution, owing partly to autumnal stubble burning in the neighbouring states, IKEA announced that it was exploring ways to convert harvest residue into a renewable material source for furniture, in collaboration with farmers and the central government.
Don’t burn straw; recycle it
IKEA’s initiative known as “Better Air Now” aims to fight curb air pollution in one of the most severely polluted countries in the world. As part of BAN, the company once known for mass producing cheap furniture, is trying to reinvent itself along sustainable and eco-friendly lines. Earlier this year, IKEA reported that they had already been developing air purifying curtains and air purifiers. It also plans to stop using all single-use plastics in its products by 2020.
With the latest announcement, the company hopes to improve India’s air quality significantly by recycling and repurposing straw that is annually burnt in largesse across North India post-harvest season, thus relieving the pollution control board of the pressure and bad rap it’s got of late. According to WHO, India houses six of the world’s ten most polluted cities with New Delhi topping that list.
Why it matters
IKEA’s first prototype, sourced from paddy straw and built with the help of private contractors and suppliers, is expected to be ready by December and hit IKEA India’s stores in 2019-2020. The first straw-based products are likely to be decorations and paper boxes, which will eventually be extended to further products and markets depending on the success of the project.
Hinting at the company’s plan to come up with a common model to generate raw material from different crop residues, Helene Davidsson, Sustainability Manager South Asia at IKEA Purchasing, told Business Today, “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.”
IKEA has also expressed the wish to replicate the model in other megacities, after the pilot run in New Delhi, Gurugram and Faridabad. Rolling out straw-based household wares is a concrete step towards achieving IKEA’s larger goal to shift to renewable and recycled material completely by 2030.
Stubble burning remains the single largest source of air pollution which causes serious health hazards, visibility problems and significant deterioration of the air quality. “The health effects of air pollution are severe and at IKEA we are determined to contribute to a solution,” Davidsson said, adding, “We know that burning of rice crop residue is a major pollution source and with this initiative, we hope that will change.”
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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