Good practice

Textile take-back for re-use and recycling to benefit local community

Textile take-back for re-use and recycling to benefit local community
© IKEA, 2018
Energy, Materials, Water, Waste, Carbon
Textile and clothing, Wholesale and retail
Resource savings: Energy:
20 tonnes of carbon emissions could be prevented annually, based on three-month trial data
Resource savings: Raw material:
4.4 tonnes of textile could be collected annually, based on three-month trial data
Resource savings: Waste:
Diversion of 1.1 tonnes of textiles from landfill per year and prevention of 20 tonnes of waste arising in the supply chain, both based on three-month trial data
Resource savings: Water:
Annual saving of 8 400 m3 of water could be achieved in the textile supply chain based on the three-month pilot
Return on investment:
About €7 262 (£ 6 500) revenue could be generated for the charity partner (YMCA) from the resale of textiles, along with the creation of 580 volunteer hours of work experience
Co2 emission reduction:
20 tonnes
Premises and operation areas:
Supply operations
Size of company:
Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:

Right time for textile take-back

  • Major organisations like IKEA are exploring circular economy models in their commitment to community and environment
  • A textile take-back scheme is successfully piloted as part of EU-supported REBUS initiative

IKEA has the ambition to become a circular retailer, with a goal that by 2025 it will take back everything they produce. They currently take back sofas, beds, mattresses and appliances. The company piloted a textile take-back service in their Cardiff store, providing the opportunity to bring in any unwanted textiles (not just IKEA branded products) – from clothing to soft furnishings – to be re-used, repaired or recycled. 

They set up a dedicated area within the store for the collection of these textiles, designed to promote the circular economy message with the strapline of 'Reclaim, Revive, Re-love, Repeat'. 

IKEA donates all textile products received from customers to charities. Workshops are run in the store showing customers how to breathe new life into old textiles. The company takes back anything that the charities cannot use or re-purpose, and recycles the items through its own waste streams.

The service is being scaled up and rolled out across other IKEA stores in the UK and the pilot has provided the template for that.

Key results

Recent research by WRAP reveals that textiles are one of the least recycled commodities in the waste sector(1). Each year, WRAP estimates that the UK consumes 1.7 million tonnes of textiles, with almost a third (620 000 tonnes) ending up in landfill or incineration(2).

The service highlights IKEA’s ethos that everyone has some responsibility to better the lives of the everyday people. Their customers are able to bring their old textiles that will either benefit the local community or be recycled in a project that supports the recycling of all textiles and clothing through IKEA’s fibre-to-fibre project. It is an important part of the company's commitment to society and communities, and to keeping textiles out of landfill.

In addition to IKEA, organisations such as Sky, Beko and Samsung have also trialled circular models under the EU-backed REBUS initiative. All participating companies felt the time was right to put these circular business models to the test, with senior management fully on-board.

The REBUS team provided specific support in this case which included:

  • Coaching the IKEA team through a range of circular business model ideas and developing each one to pilot stage
  • Working with IKEA's sustainability team to outline the business case
  • Supporting the IKEA team with research and ideas to make the service work and highlighting what other organisations are already doing in this space
  • Facilitating partnerships for the service
  • Developing the metrics to measure progress

“We are delighted to partner with IKEA Cardiff on the textile take-back scheme. This initiative not only diverts waste from landfill, but enables the YMCA to provide much-needed items to people in the community.” -- Mandy Caddy, YMCA, Cardiff

“We recognise as a retailer we have a responsibility to seek ways to use more of the resource available rather than using virgin material. Through this pilot we have been able to facilitate the return of textiles to our stores and are looking to the future to take product back into the supply chain with the aim to make these into new products, thereby supporting our aspirations to create a circular economy.” -- Lynn Maxwell, Sustainability Developer West, IKEA

Want to know if relevant support is offered in your country?