Author: Jerri-Lynn Scofield, he has served as a securities lawyer and derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile craftsmen.

The Swedish retailer IKEA announced that it will phase out most of the plastic packaging of existing products by 2028, and will phase out most of the plastic packaging of new products in 2025.

If this seems to be a poor promise and the deadline is slow, then it is not. Currently, only 10% of IKEA’s existing packaging is made of plastic. Therefore, according to Treehugger, the company has taken several steps to reduce the amount of plastic waste it generates. IKEA builds a future without plastic packaging:

IKEA Packaging and Labeling Manager Erik Olsen said in a statement: “Phasing out plastic in consumer product packaging is our overall commitment to make packaging solutions more sustainable and support the reduction of plastic pollution and the development of renewable and recyclable packaging materials. An important step.” Press release. “This transformation will happen gradually in the next few years, mainly focusing on paper, because it is both recyclable and renewable, and it is widely recycled worldwide.”

IKEA spends more than $1 billion annually on approximately 920,000 tons of packaging materials and has significantly reduced the amount of plastic in its packaging. As of today, less than 10% of its packaging materials are made of plastic. The company stated that in order to completely eliminate plastic products, it must work with product development teams and suppliers around the world. It may even have to design completely new solutions.

“Ingenuity is part of the IKEA tradition, and packaging is no exception in this regard,” said Maja Kjellberg, head of packaging development at IKEA. “Getting rid of plastic in our consumer packaging solutions will undoubtedly be a challenging task in the coming years. Through this campaign, we aim to stimulate packaging innovation and use our scale and influence to influence outside the supply chain. Has a positive impact on the wider industry.”

Recycling Fairy

IKEA’s proactive elimination of plastic packaging is a welcome step, which is an implicit admission that relying on recycling fairies to wave magic wands to make waste magically disappear after generation is not feasible. Despite this, pending federal legislation continues to rely too much on this approach.

There are some policy innovations at the state level. Both Maine and Oregon have passed laws requiring manufacturers to get rid of plastic packaging waste. According to the dialogue, packaging generates a lot of waste-now Maine and Oregon want manufacturers to pay to get rid of it, Through the formulation of regulations to establish the extended production responsibility (EPR) for waste treatment:

Most consumers pay little attention to the packaging of the goods they buy unless it is Hard to open Or the project is Really over-packed. But packaging accounts for Approximately 28% of U.S. municipal solid wasteOnly about 53% of materials end up in recycling bins, and even fewer are actually recycled: According to the trade association, at least 25% of the materials collected for recycling in the United States are Rejected and incinerated or sent to landfill.

Local governments across the United States are responsible for waste management, funding it through taxes and user fees. Until 2018, the United States exported a large amount of recyclable materials, mainly to China. Then China banned most foreign steel scrap imports.Vietnam and other recipient countries have followed suit, triggering Waste disposal crisis in rich countries.

Some states in the United States have enacted laws requiring manufacturers to be responsible for products that are particularly difficult to manage, such as electronic waste, Car battery, Mattress with tire, When the useful life of these commodities is over.

now, Maine with Oregon The first state law has been enacted so that companies that manufacture consumer product packaging (such as cardboard boxes, plastic packaging, and food containers) are also responsible for the recycling and disposal of these products. Maine Law Effective in mid-2024, and Followers of Oregon Mid 2025.

These measures shift waste management costs from customers and local municipalities to producers.As a researcher Waste with Ways to reduce it, We are very pleased to see that states are beginning to engage stakeholders, shift responsibilities, stimulate innovation, and challenge existing extractive practices.

This shift to dunning producers to produce plastic waste is welcome. However, I think they still rely too much on recycling solutions to encourage producers to reduce waste:

According to the EPR plan, manufacturers do not always take back their goods literally. Instead, they often pay intermediary organizations or institutions, who use the money to help pay for product recycling and disposal costs. Allowing manufacturers to bear these costs is intended to motivate them to redesign their products to reduce waste.

In fact, there is still considerable debate about the effectiveness of EPR regulations. Each Treehigger:

Whether EPR laws are really effective is a controversial topic. However, looking ahead, a combination of voluntary and regulatory measures may be the best way to incentivize a low-waste economy.

Exactly. Even better are strong regulatory measures, first by saying no to the production of plastics. Supported by meaningful monitoring, not a token scheme that can be captured and destroyed by the industry. The conversation article warned of such problems with the EPR program:

Critics think these [EPR] Program needs Strong supervision and supervision Ensuring that companies take their responsibilities seriously—especially to prevent them from passing costs on to consumers requires enforceable accountability measures.Observers also believe that producers can have Too much influence within the management organization, They warned that this might undermine the credibility of law enforcement or the law.

By committing to completely eliminate plastic packaging, IKEA proved that the plastic packaging we currently use is not necessary at all. IKEA’s efforts have helped to shift the focus of the plastic waste management debate from the framework of plastic producers: as a problem that can be solved through recycling. but it is not the truth. Long before China closed its borders on plastic waste imports and the pandemic closed (or at least temporarily suspended) many municipal recycling efforts, recycling methods had already shown inadequacy.

However, plastic promoters continue to tout recycling for several reasons. Emphasis on recycling recognizes plastic issues, but exempts plastic manufacturers from the responsibility of cleaning up. Instead, it transfers the burden to you and me, who must sort our waste to separate it before it reaches our landfill. This is a waste management theater—similar to a safety theater held at an airport—makes us feel like we are doing something. Rather than contemplating what the best policy is.

A much better solution is not to produce so much plastic in the first place. This way we don’t have to worry about disposing of waste. Or carefully consider the consequences of microplastics entering the original environment and other places where sane people do not want them to enter.

In addition, manufacturing plastic is not a free process, nor is it carbon neutral. A recent report emphasized that by 2030, plastics are currently expected to contribute more climate change emissions than coal-fired power plants, making them the new coal, just as the world is trying to reduce its dependence on old coal (see my November s post, New coal: promoting the development of plastics and exacerbating climate change). Not producing so many things at all is the only way to reduce its overall carbon footprint.

We can

IKEA has a history of environmental responsibility. Treehugger reports:

The Swedish retailer has been a champion of the environment for many years.For example, in 2018, it announced plan Only use renewable and recyclable materials in its products by 2030, and complete all last-mile deliveries by electric vehicles by 2025.As of 2020, it is no longer in use Disposable plastic In its shop or restaurant.Earlier this year it promise Sales of solar panels and renewable energy to customers in all its markets within the next four years.

If IKEA can see a way to eliminate all plastic packaging by 2028, other companies should be able to do the same. Perhaps, if our congressmen and state lawmakers are serious about curbing our plastic addiction, they can implement a more aggressive general ban, banning the use of low-hanging fruits-single-use plastic, first-and then eliminate all plastic packaging- -At least in its current form, harmful to the environment. At the same time, considering the adoption of circular economy principles for all products is the next foreseeable next step-the EU has opened a path. But I will leave further discussion of this concept to future posts.


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