With fast furniture becoming as pervasive as fast fashion, Nicole Lutze finds out how IKEA plan to save up to 15,000 pieces of furniture from landfill each year across Australia with their new buy-back service.

Over the past generation or two, people living in wealthy countries like Australia, have become unaware or confused by the true value of items like fashion and furniture. While our grandparents and great grandparents simply understood that things had value and should be repaired, reused and handed on to others, decades of marketing and cheap mass-production has resulted in a disposable attitude that infiltrates most areas of our modern lives. The implications of this disposable attitude are now being understood as we witness rapid climate change across our planet as it struggles to cope with our consumer-heavy lifestyle.

While there’s plenty that individuals can do on a personal level to reduce, reuse and repair what they own, businesses must step up to the table with incentivised schemes aimed at minimising their waste and promoting the value of their products beyond their first life. Refreshingly, global furniture and homewares giant, IKEA, understands the role it can play in a sustainable future and has recently launched a furniture buy-back scheme across their Australian stores.

IKEA at Brisbane City Council’s Green Heart Fair showcasing their sustainability initiatives

“People have a strong desire to live a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle,” says Renea Robson, IKEA’s market manager. “We saw we had both a responsibility and an opportunity to lead the way by making sustainable living affordable, attractive and accessible for our customers. We want to be part of the solution.”

The furniture buy-back scheme commenced as a trial in a Sydney store. Over the 12-month trial period, more than 1,600 pieces of furniture were bought back by customers and re-sold to new customers. Based on those results, IKEA expects to save up to 15,000 pieces of furniture from landfill each year across Australia.

Renea says, “We always think long term. We want to be able to meet the needs of people today, without compromising the needs of future generations. We are committed to transforming into a circular business by prolonging the life of products through services such as buy-back, and using materials and resources more smartly.”

“Last year we gave 47 million recovered products a second life by repacking and re-selling products in stores around the world.”

IKEA has set goals of becoming 100% circular and climate positive in all operations by 2030, and the furniture buy-back scheme will play an integral role in that goal. The company also takes back mattresses, batteries and light bulbs for recycling in all Australian stores, and has nearly 20,000 solar panels installed on their Australian stores and distributions centres. They also offer home solar panel installation as part of their extensive product range.

For those Queenslanders considering returning some of their unwanted IKEA furniture, you can get an estimated product value by visiting their website. Each piece of furniture is valued according to varying factors such as age, size and condition. An IKEA co-worker will place a final value on the product after assessing it in person, and the customer will receive the agreed value on an IKEA refund card. Importantly, the product will then be re-sold at the same value to a new home.

However, not all IKEA products are eligible for return. “We currently offer the buy-back service for most furniture items such as chairs, sofas, tables and bedroom furniture, except mattresses,” says Renea. “Excluded items include home furnishing accessories, add on units, bed textiles, kitchen products (including bench-tops), cabinets and fronts, modular wardrobes, accessories, appliances and products that have been used outside like outdoor furniture.”

“Last year we gave 47 million recovered products a second life by repacking and re-selling products in stores around the world,” says Renea. “By 2021, we will have dedicated destinations in every single store for people to sell back their old furniture and find repaired or refurnished furniture at even more affordable prices. Together, with customers, co-workers and partners, we want to tackle the challenges of unsustainable consumption. We hope to establish and promote even more services to enable a circular economy for the community.”