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IKEA to convert rice straw into renewable material for IKEA products in a bid help reduce air pollution

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Leading global furniture chain IKEA aims to help tackle one of the largest, global environmental issues by launching its ‘Better Air Now’ initiative. Starting off in India, IKEA intends to turn rice straw into a new renewable material source for IKEA products. A rice harvesting residue, rice straw is traditionally disposed by burning, which contributes heavily to air pollution and smog, particularly in North India. Through the ‘Better Air Now’ initiative, the furniture retailer’s ambition is to create a model to reduce air pollution that could be replicated in other mega cities.

According to the World Health Organization’s data, polluted air leads to around seven million deaths per year, worldwide. India is one of the most polluted countries and North India has 9 of 10 most polluted cities in the world. “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.

Working closely with central and state governments in India, private companies, innovators, NGO’s, the UN, universities, suppliers and farmers, the long term ambition for IKEA is to contribute to villages reaching zero rice straw burning.

For many years IKEA has been working on reducing air pollution from its own operations by phasing out hazardous chemicals and tackling air emissions. Earlier this year, IKEA announced that it is developing air purifying curtains and air purifiers.

“IKEA works continuously to contribute and enable healthy and sustainable living. 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.

As a first step, the initiative focuses on the northern parts of India and the New Delhi area, one of the world’s most air polluted areas with cities like New Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad. It will then be expanded to other areas of the country.

The first IKEA product prototypes based on rice straw will be ready by the end of 2018; the products will be on sale in IKEA India during 2019-2020. They will gradually be sold in other markets.

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