IKEA Wants To Give You Vouchers For Your Old Furniture [Updated]

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IKEA Australia has just announced the Australia's first furniture take-back service, where customers can return unwanted IKEA items and be paid back in store vouchers. This incentive has been introduced by the company as part of its aim to become a 100% circular economy company by 2030.

The service will be available at IKEA Tempe in the south of Sydney and it will join existing IKEA programs across Australia that take back used sofas, mattresses, batteries and light bulbs.

Here's how it works:

  • Customers need to fill out an online form and email photos of their old IKEA furniture which will then be assessed by an IKEA co-worker
  • The customer will then be advised if their furniture qualifies for the service, and if successful will then be offered a price for their furniture
  • The customer has 14 days to bring their furniture to IKEA Tempe where they will receive their voucher
  • The furniture will be put up for sale in IKEA Tempe at the same value of the voucher given to the customer

Update: A IKEA spokesperson has told Gizmodo Australia that the vouchers that customers receive will be up to 50% of the value of the furniture. It is probably safe to assume that other variables will also be taken into account such as the condition.

When it comes to larger items that are difficult to transport, IKEA has partnered with GoGet to allow customers to hire vans for two hours for free in order to help bring their old furniture back to the store.

A Circular Living pop up store has also been opened on site that showcases and educates customers on using recycled furniture.

The entrance to the Circular Living Pop Up store

"IKEA is focused on ensuring all our products are designed from the very beginning with the intention to be repaired, reused, resold and eventually recycled. In fact, 60% of our range is currently based on renewable materials. Our utmost priority is to generate as little waste as possible, but we can’t do it alone – it takes government, business, industry and the entire community to make a difference," said Kate Ringvall, Sustainability Manager at IKEA Australia.

"With the launch of our Circular Living Pop-up Store and IKEA Tempe Take-Back Service, we want to make it easier than ever for Australians to live the sustainable life they desire."

Older items don't seem to be a problem, either. A fourteen year old chair and a ten year old chair have been taken back and are currently on display at the Tempe store.

This announcement comes on the same day as the release of IKEA Australia's People & Planet Positive Report 2018. The report claims that a possible 13.5 million pieces of furniture have been thrown out by Australians and looks at the importance of a circular economy in response to the findings.

A ten year old chair that has been brought back to the store.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a circular economy aims to maximise the life of materials and utilise them for as long as possible. This is different to a traditional economy that tends to have more of a make, use, dispose approach.

Here are some of the key findings of the report:

  • 81% of Australians have never heard of the circular economy
  • The good news is that of the 19% of Australians that have heard of the circular economy, the majority of them understand what it means
  • 34% of Australians said they are planning to buy furniture in the next 12 months with the majority (67%) happy to purchase used furniture
  • Of the 34% of Australians that said they wouldn’t purchase used furniture, 60% would reconsider their decision if the furniture had been restored by professionals and was safe to use; they knew how to personalise the furniture to suit their home; if it was easy to purchase and have it delivered or if they could rent the furniture so they could continuously update their homes

But it's not all about sustainability — IKEA is a business, after all and reducing wastage has the potential to increase profit margins, as well as help the planet. And let's not forget that the the take-back system issues vouchers, not cash. So customers are also being encouraged to be circular — back in the direction of IKEA for repeat spend.

At a media event at the Tempe store, a panel of experts discussed circular economy and the changes that need to be made by businesses to make it profitable.

Inside the pop-up store

"For IKEA this is clearly about business, we are in the business of selling furniture," said Kate Ringvall, Sustainability Manager at IKEA Australia. "Our core business isn't really about sustainability or talking about sustainability but the way that we approach it is talking about sustainability and the circular economy through how we produce our products, how we move those products, how we talk to our customers about the amazing products we do sell and how they can help their life... Our goal has always been to reduce to damage [to the environment] as much as possible... and that our impact is human and planet positive."

The panel also included Jo Cooper, a Project Officer for the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, who discussed the circular approach to business and how it can be beneficial from a fiscal perspective.

"If you're taking something out of the ground you probably getting abut 2% of qhat you acually need out of that material once it's manufactured. If you're able to take back 100% of that, there has to be an economic benefit."

That being said, organisations need to be forward thinking when it comes to sustainability and being circular.

"But that only deals with things that already exist. From here on in, you really need to start designing for that purpose — to start taking things apart and reuse those materials."

The take-back service area where customers can buy pre-loved furniture.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to setting up a business to be both circular and profitable. But it's something that IKEA are taking seriously.

One example is how the business approaches food wastage. IKEA has partnered with companies such as Enriched 360 and Yarra Valley Farms to recycle 100% of its organic foot waste. Leftovers are transformed into dehydrated compost which these businesses take to help make fresh food that IKEA then purchases back.

IKEA also has 20,000 solar panels across the Eastern seaboard alone — and the roof of the Tempe store is covered by them.

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