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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Better Furniture Options Enable a ‘Sustainable Life at Home’

New offerings by IKEA, Loll Designs add more options for consumers invested in living more sustainably.

IKEA exploring furniture recycling, leasing models

IKEA recently announced a number of pilot schemes in the UK and Europe — including the sale of used, refurbished furniture; the rental of furniture, and a textile-recycling scheme — as part of its ambition to evolve into a circular business and enable its customers to live a “sustainable life at home.”

Since last year, customers in Edinburgh have been able to exchange used IKEA furniture for a reward voucher; the returned items are then refurbished and sold in the bargain area. The idea will be tested in Glasgow and the company is considering expanding the scheme elsewhere.

In Switzerland, IKEA plans to being renting chairs, desks and other furniture out to business owners, according to a recent report in the Financial Times. The pilot may begin as soon as this month and will serve as a trial to subscription furniture rentals on a broader, perhaps international scale. Once customers reaches the end of their rental period, IKEA will then refurbish the leased furniture to be resold — similar to a UK program that already exists in the UK, through which the company buys back and resells its used furniture.

Along with rolling out more and more products made from recycled materials, Hege Sæbjørnsen, sustainability manager for IKEA in the UK, told The Guardian, “We are building the foundations towards [leasing and reuse] so we can scale quickly.”

IKEA is also launching a textile recycling scheme across the UK. The Swedish home retailer began testing textile recycling in Cardiff, Wales nearly two years ago — customers can bring in old clothes, curtains or other furnishing fabrics to be repaired or cleaned, then delivered to a homelessness project or recycled. In England, stores in Milton Keynes and Greenwich also offer the service, and the company says it will extend to all UK stores over the next few months.

Loll Designs outdoor furniture now Cradle to Cradle Certified™

Image credit: Loll Designs

Meanwhile, better outdoor furniture options here in the US recently increased when Minnesota-based Loll Designs underwent the rigorous process of becoming Cradle to Cradle Certified™. Working with MBDC — originators of the Cradle to Cradle Design™ framework and the Cradle to Cradle Certified products program — Loll’s products were evaluated on five categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness.

Pursuing a Cradle to Cradle certification seemed like a natural path for Loll to follow, as the company started by producing an Adirondack chair from the waste from a skateboard ramp, from its former company, TrueRide. Given Loll’s founding on this principle of efficient and responsible reuse of manufacturing materials and guided by its vision to “Appreciate the Outdoors,” C2C certification aligned well with the company’s philosophy.

Loll Designs is pleased to now have this certification, which will allow for a deeper conversation with customers without them having to wade through a huge stack of bill of materials. Currently the company boasts a collection of 93 percent of its products as Cradle to Cradle Certified — Loll attained Cradle to Cradle Certified SILVER rating overall for 84 percent of its product line and BRONZE level for 9 percent — and the company says it will work toward achieving a 100 percent certified product line in the coming years. With many certifications out there, many being self-declared, Loll felt Cradle to Cradle was one to pursue in that it demanded third-party verification.

The ever-increasing market demand to know what’s in the products we buy has encouraged adoption within the company to seek a third-party certification to validate its work, especially with programs including LEED, Google Portico and Healthy Product Declarations becoming more and more influential for customers and industry alike.

“Our customers from across all sales channels are inquiring about the material makeup of our products, asking if they are truly safe for humans and for the environment,” says Loll Designs founder Greg Benson. “Having transparency with our company and our recycled products that we can share with our customers is the right thing to do, and utilizing a respected, third-party certification like Cradle to Cradle gives Loll credibility. Most importantly to us is that the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute not only certified Loll’s products, but the process with MBDC lays the groundwork for how we can continue to move our sustainability initiatives even further.”

Attaining a SILVER level on the material health category was an important goal for Loll. While working with 100 percent recycled post-consumer material is a positive asset, it can be challenging to know what’s in the input stream. To ensure this achievement, MBDC worked closely with Loll’s HDPE supplier to understand what materials they are accepting and how it is sorted. While the input stream is primarily coming from food-grade bottles and consumer care bottles, additional testing was done on the base resin material, to ensure the input stream wasn’t being contaminated by heavy metals or organohalogens, a class of chemicals that has been associated with serious human health problems.

“Loll Designs has put incredible effort into their Cradle to Cradle optimization process and overall design, and this work transcends industry by raising awareness of the materials and ways manufacturers can work with supply chains,” said Jay Bolus, President of MBDC. “In essence, the company has fine-tuned their material sourcing process by working with its supply chain to improve the way manufacturing partners make the products’ materials. We’re thrilled to have been able to assist and guide the team on this journey for creating positively designed furniture.

The material reutilization category stipulates that materials must be recovered and kept in continuous cycles. While Loll products are 100 percent recycled, they are also 100 percent recyclable. However, the HDPE material can’t be recycled with typical curbside recyclables — to ensure the components get recycled properly, Loll encourages customers to send parts or disassembled products back to the company, where it can remove the stainless-steel hardware and aluminum inserts, recycle those, and then send on the HDPE material to an industrial waste processing facility where they can be repurposed into another useful product.