Rice straw in Ikea furniture?

Posted on 24 April 2019.

The Swedish furniture giant wants to help reduce air pollution from stubble burning in India by recycling and incorporating rice straw in its products.

Although banned, the traditional stubble burning technique is the most efficient and least expensive way of preparing the land for the next crop.

In northern India, which is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world, smoke from stubble burning is one of the main causes of air pollution. Stubble burning is an old farming technique used to clear land. The farmers get rid of their crop residues - such as rice straw - and prepare their fields for the next harvest.

Every year in November time, New Delhi's neighboring states - Haryana and Punjab – go up in flames causing serious air pollution. It is particularly problematic because as winter approaches weather conditions prevent the smoke from dissipating, so it forms a thick toxic smog.

Although banned, traditional stubble burning is the most efficient and least expensive way of clearing the land ready for the next crop.

Ikea - the Swedish furniture giant – opened its first store in India in August 2018. And it may have already found a solution to stubble burning: turn the rice straw into a renewable raw material.

As part of its "Better Air Now" initiative and in collaboration with researchers, local associations, companies and farmers, the Group is experimenting with solutions to reuse rice straw in its products.


Selling the straw instead of burning it

Recycling this crop residue would mean farmers could sell it instead of burning it – and would generate additional income at the same time.

The Better Air Now operation is part of a package of measures taken by Ikea to reduce air pollution in India. The firm has decided to focus its efforts in the north of the country and in New Delhi, but aims to expand the initiative to other regions and create a model that can be replicated in other megacities across the world.

The first Ikea products incorporating rice straw could be marketed in India as early as 2019-2020 - and if successful will be rolled out in other countries.