Last year, a project to turn rice straw into a new renewable material source was announced by IKEA. Part of its Better Air Now initiative to address global environmental issues, the company’s aim is to create a model for air pollution reduction that can be replicated in other cities. Rice straw is a rice-harvesting residue that is traditionally burned and contributes heavily to air pollution. The burning of rice straw is a major contributor to air pollution and smog in India.

The initiative will first focus on the northern parts of India and Delhi. The plan is to then expand the initiative to other parts of the country. The first IKEA product prototypes based on rice straw was scheduled to be ready by the end of 2018, after which the products will be sold in IKEA India during 2019–2020, gradually spreading out to more markets. The company intends to work with central and state governments, private companies, innovators, NGOs, the UN, universities, suppliers, and farmers to help villages reach zero rice straw burning.

Earlier this year it was also announced that IKEA was developing air-purifying curtains and air purifiers. Interestingly, when CB sent its list of related questions, IKEA’s PR spokesperson could not provide any meaningful response. They admitted that there were no new developments on the initiative’s front and also that they were privy only to public information.

IKEA’s own spokesperson wrote in an email to CB that the company was yet to finalise the details around the product prototype.

In a press release, Helene Davidsson, sustainability manager – South Asia at IKEA Purchasing, said, ‘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.’