Swedish furniture brand IKEA will turn rice straw, a rice harvesting residue that is traditionally burned and contributes heavily to air pollution, into a renewable material source for the IKEA products. The initiative has been taken under IKEA's 'Better Air Now' initiative to tackle the most critical issue of pollution, especially in the northern India, which comprises nine out of 10 most polluted cities in the world. The company has said that the first IKEA product prototype, which will be based on rice straw, will be ready by this year end. The products will be officially sold in IKEA's India stores in 2019-2020. For this, the company has been working with the central and state governments in India, and farmers. Private companies and suppliers have also been roped in.
The company has said it wants to create a model for how to reduce air pollution, which could be replicated in other mega cities.
"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," says Helene Davidsson, Sustainability Manager South Asia at IKEA Purchasing.
Before this, IKEA had said it was developing air purifying curtains and air purifiers. "One of our main priorities is clean air and the 'Better Air Now' initiative is an important step on this journey," says Lena Pripp-Kovac, Sustainability Manager, Inter IKEA Group, said.
At first, the initiative will focus on the northern parts of India and the New Delhi area, including New Delhi, Gurugram and Faridabad, and subsequently it will be expanded to other areas of the country. The burning of rice straw, a residue from rice harvesting, is a major contributor to air pollution and smog. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 90 per cent of people worldwide breathe polluted air, which causes seven million deaths per year.