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IKEA reveals early success with FRN reuse initiative

Furniture reuse organisations across the UK could gain hundreds of thousands of pounds a year of extra income under a new initiative which encourage IKEA's online customers to donate their used furniture to a member of the Furniture Reuse Network, the retail giant has claimed. Speaking at the Furniture Reuse Network's (FRN) annual conference in Solihull last week (January 21), IKEA's UK sustainable development manager Charlie Browne also revealed that it had commissioned research to look at how it could help develop infrastructure to bring material back to the reuse sector.

IKEA's initial work with the FRN, which has over 300 members nationwide, involved it putting leaflets in stores at point of sale to inform customers of reuse charities that will take their old furniture for reuse. Mr Browne explained this had moved into a second phase in October 2010, where the company provided a direct link on its website to a special landing page on the FRN site which allowed customers to view the reuse organisations nearest to them.

"The results for October 1 to January 11 have been over 17,000 hits directly from the IKEA site, which made it the second most popular way into the FRN site after Google," he said.

"Getting 189 hits per day would be nearly 69,000 per year, and if only half of those make a donation which gave you £10 for each, that would be £350,000 for the reuse sector."

Mr Browne explained that the next stage in IKEA's work with the FRN, which he described as its "keynote" waste and recycling programme, was to bring more products into the recycling and reuse system.

"Prior studies have indicated the big question is logistics. How do we get the product from the customer to you guys in a good state?" he explained.

Mr Browne told the conference that IKEA had paid two consultancies to look at the potential for developing two alternative approaches to developing product take-back and a recycling and reuse infrastructure. One, he said, was based around a single central facility for reprocessing discarded furniture and the other based around a regional collection service, run with the FRN, that would use manual disassembly of furniture and focus on reuse and dismantling for material recycling.

Noting that both approaches had pros and cons, Mr Browne highlighted the high initial cost and transport costs of a single facility, but also its "faster" throughput, while he highlighted the flexibility of a network of facilities, but also that it would be more labour intensive.

However, he revealed that the recommendation from the study had been that "an effective take-back scheme is possible and can deliver significant financial benefits. It can be self financing."

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