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IKEA's New Bio-Based Glue Could Reduce the Brand's Environmental Footprint—and Inspire Industrywide Change

IKEA announced the development of an alternative, eco-friendly glue. Here's what it means for the brand—and the industry as a whole.

Written by
Calin Van Paris
Published
The name
IKEA
comes with many immediate connotations: endless aisles, meatballs (or
seedballs
), construction manuals, and, of course, furniture. And though many of IKEA's iconic pieces do require some assembly, the brand's wood is largely composite held together by an adhesive. With the introduction of a new bio-based glue, IKEA aims to significantly reduce its climate footprint—and inspire others to do the same.

What Is Bio-Based Glue?

bio-based glue
Photo: IKEA
IKEA's bio-based glue is a starch-based system crafted from non-food grade corn. The glue—developed in Kazlu Ruda, Lithuania—was born of ten years of research and effort.
"It's not unheard of to produce boards with bio-based glues, but they are expensive. The challenge was finding alternatives at a reasonable price and with the required quality," said Venla Hemmilä, Material and Technology Engineer at IKEA of Sweden in a recent
press release
. "Then we needed to prove that they actually work and convince an industry that's been using traditional glue that this is something we can produce with."
The change may seem subtle at first blush, but as it turns out, seemingly small shifts in production can lead to a substantial reduction in environmental impact.

How Can Bio-Based Glue Reduce IKEA's Footprint?

Photo: IKEA
According to the release, 5% of IKEA's total climate footprint is connected to its use of fossil-based glue, a synthetic made from raw fossil materials. This is because the majority of IKEA's boards are comprised of 90% wood and 10% glue, making the additive a crucial consideration.
The introduction of bio-based glue is part of a larger goal to reduce the use of fossil-based glue by 40%, and thus glue-born emissions by 30%, by 2030.
"Together with increasing recycled wood use and striving towards 100% renewable energy in production, this is a milestone in our journey of making our wood-based products more sustainable,"
said Andreas Rangel Ahrens
, Head of Climate at Inter IKEA Group.

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Reducing climate impact involves innovation, overhauls, and a series of steps—some big, some small. Here are three ways IKEA is working to make its presence more sustainable.

What Other Sustainable Steps Is IKEA Taking?

Photo: IKEA

1. Buy Back and Resell

IKEA launched its Buy Back and Resell program in 2021. The initiative
allows customers
to return gently used items for a store-determined value.
Once the item is back with IKEA, it's clearly marked As-Is and offered at a discounted rate, allowing furniture to have a second life rather than ending up in the landfill.

2. Renewable and Recycled Materials

Along with its bio-based glue, IKEA favors innovative and renewable materials wherever it can, along with recycled materials (part of its aim of achieving a
circular business model
).
In addition, IKEA
strives for transparency
around its supply chain at all levels including agriculture, water footprint, human impact, and more.

3. Home Solar Solutions

In 2022, SunPower and IKEA began offering
solar packages
in select California markets. The company's
home solar options
span four tiers designed to fit a variety of budgets and energy goals.