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Got an old Billy bookcase you want to get rid of? Ikea will buy it back from you

The program will start running around the world next month—but not in the U.S.

Got an old Billy bookcase you want to get rid of? Ikea will buy it back from you
[Source Photo: Ikea]

On Black Friday, Ikea is encouraging customers to bring back old furniture instead of buying more. In 27 countries—including the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia, although not the U.S.—Ikea is now running a new “Buy Back” program that will launch on November 24.

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If someone returns an old bookcase or dresser instead of leaving it at the curb, they will be given a voucher for as much as half of the original price of the item, depending on the condition. (The vouchers can be used at any point in the future, because the company says it only wants people to buy more when they actually need something.) Ikea will then resell the furniture in the store. Anything that can’t be resold will be recycled or donated.

“Rather than buy things you don’t need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” says Ingka Group Deputy Retail Operations Manager Stefan Vanoverbeke in a press release. The program may come to the U.S. in the future.

It’s one part of Ikea’s move to become a circular company over the next decade, meaning that everything it makes is designed to be reused, repaired, upgraded, or recycled, rather than ending up in a landfill. Continuing to use raw materials for its thousands of products—especially as the company continues to grow—just isn’t sustainable. “We do not see that we as a company can move with this situation going forward if we don’t address the resource scarcity topic, meaning that we need to be super smart about the materials that we use,” Pia Heidenmark Cook, chief sustainability officer for Ingka Group, the company that operates hundreds of Ikea stores, told Fast Company in a previous interview.

Some of the company’s stores are experimenting with furniture rental. Ikea’s designers are studying how to make furniture differently so that it can be most easily repaired or upgraded when the first owner—or renter—no longer wants it. The company is also finding ways to incorporate more recycled material, including recycled fabric, into its products. And with the new program, it’s also trying to expand the secondhand market for Ikea products. It’s one of a growing number of brands to consider what’s called extended producer responsibility, or the idea that when a customer wants to get rid of a product, the brand that made it should figure out how to keep it out of the trash. Levi’s, for example, recently launched a new online store to buy back its customers’ old jeans.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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