IKEA this week announced it will discontinue selling single-use products, from plastic straws to paper plates, by 2020. The global retailer also said it will sell only recycled plastic products by August of the same year and honor the Paris Climate Accord regardless of political outcomes.

This is good news for shoppers, because plastic utensils are much harder to recycle than many think. It’s also a big step forward for Earth-friendly products generally, because IKEA sells $45.2 billion worth of consumer products annually — about 66 percent in Europe and 19 percent in the United States. The company has been forward-looking about its environmental responsibility for many years, but said that customers are leading this change. Now, products will be designed based on “circular principles,” reflecting concerns that the throw-away culture is leading to climatic disaster. 

The circular economy — the idea that all products should be recycled or recirculated at the end of consumers’ use — is growing in influence globally. Many companies are contemplating commitments to take back products for recycling. Within a decade, most products will come with a built-in path to recycle. 

IKEA’s idea: Goodbye, single-use plastics.

 “Our ambition is to become people and planet positive by 2030 while growing the IKEA business,” said Inter IKEA Group CEO, Torbjörn Lööf. “Through our size and reach, we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than one billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet.”

In addition to eliminating single-use products from its inventory, IKEA will stop offering single-use plastics in its cafes and, by 2025, transition to more sustainable foods served in-store and for sale. The company’s goal is to become “climate positive” by reducing the carbon load across all products by 70 percent.

IKEA also announced plans to offer affordable home solar kits and carbon-neutral home delivery of products by 2025.

“Becoming truly circular means meeting people’s changing lifestyles, prolonging the life of products and materials, and using resources in a smarter way. To make this a reality, we will design all products from the very beginning to be repurposed, repaired, reused, resold, and recycled”, said Lena Pripp-Kovac, IKEA’s sustainability manager.

By Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch is the publisher at Earth911.com and Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Intentional Futures, an insight-to-impact consultancy in Seattle. A veteran tech journalist, Mitch is passionate about helping people understand sustainability and the impact of their decisions on the planet.