From the good, the bad, to the downright ugly, environmentally progressive home furnishings retailer/meatball purveyor IKEA was a common topic around these parts in 2011. And with 2012 freshly upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to share some interesting, potentially game-changing news from the PV-installing, tree-planting, reusable bag pioneer from Sweden.
IKEA is starting off the New Year by ditching traditional shipping pallets made from wood and replacing them with thin, lightweight pallets made from corrugated cardboard that can still support heavy loads — up to 1,650 pounds of MDF coffee tables and lingonberry jam! It’s anticipated that the switch will save the company up to $193 million in annual shipping costs, although an investment in new forklifts and a whole lot of cardboard has to be accounted for.
[Related: Seniors look for love at IKEA in Shanghai]
At a mere 5.5 pounds, the revolutionary cardboard pallets weigh 90 percent less than their wooden counterparts and will no doubt help to dramatically slash shipping-related emissions in addition to overhead. But here’s the thing: unlike traditional pallets, which can be reused over and over again before they break down and are retired/repurposed into DIY bedframes, the cardboard pallets are designed to only be used once. After their initial use, the cardboard pallets will be recycled, although I’m curious as to how IKEA, which currently uses 10 million wooden pallets to transport goods to 287 stores in 26 countries each year, will go about doing this. Will they be immediately broken down and turned into new pallets creating a closed-loop system?
How exactly IKEA plans to recycle the pallets is unclear, but Jeanette Skjelmose, sustainability chief at IKEA’s supply-chain unit, knows this much: “We don’t know if the paper pallet will be the ultimate solution, but it’s better than wood.”