Ikea has a plan to fix pollution crisis in India's cities

Retailer to make products from agricultural waste

By MARY MCDOUGALL, CNN BUSINESS
Ikea via CNN

(CNN) - Ikea has come up with a plan to help some of the world's most polluted cities breathe easier.

The global furniture giant will start making products out of agricultural waste in India, meaning farmers no longer have to burn it.

The initiative, called "Better Air Now," will provide Indian farmers with a use for unwanted rice straw, which is often burned. Smoke from the fires is one of the major contributors to northern India's pollution crisis.

Ikea, which opened its first stores in India earlier this year, plans to buy the straw and turn it into a renewable source for Ikea products. The company's ambition is "to create a model for how to reduce air pollution that could be replicated in other mega cities," it said in a statement on Thursday.

The Swedish company said its first product prototypes based on rice straw will be ready by the end of 2018. It hopes to start selling them in India by 2020 before offering them in other markets.

The program will kick off in the areas around India's capital New Delhi — one of the world's most polluted cities — before being extended to other parts of the country and eventually to Ikea's global markets.

Ikea is working with Indian state and local governments, NGOs and companies to help take the initiative forward.

Every year, farmers set fire to millions of tons of crop residue to clear fields for the next season, releasing huge amounts of harmful air particles into the environment.

As much as 33% of New Delhi's overall pollution earlier this month came from crop burning in surrounding states, according to a report by India's System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research.

Pollution in India is believed to be responsible for as many as one million deaths a year.

Data from the World Health Organization released in May gave India the unenviable distinction of having nine of the world's 10 most polluted cities.

New Delhi's air is so polluted that residents could live as much as nine years longer if the city met WHO standards, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago estimated in a study last year.

Ikea has taken other steps to increase sustainability in recent months, including a global ban on single-use plastic at its stores earlier this year.

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