How Ikea's latest innovation could help bring down pollution over north India

Several north Indian cities suffer from high pollution levels which see a spike due to the burning of straw in farms during the autumn months.

How Ikea's latest innovation could help bring down pollution over north India
Reuters Photo

New Delhi: Ikea, the Swedish company renowned for its ready-to-assemble furniture and home accessories and appliances, has a plan that could be a big asset in the fight against air pollution over northern India. In a statement, the multinational company, which opened its first Indian store in Hyderabad earlier this year, said that it plans to buy straw from farmers and turn it into consumer products.

Burning of leftover straw by farmers in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are widely regarded as one of the major reasons for pollution here and in the National Capital Region (NCR) each year. Ikea in its statement said that it plans to ready a prototype machine by the end of this year which could use the straw and help in the process of converting them to products like paper boxes and decorations. The products could be sold in India as early as 2019 and may also make their way to Ikea stores the world over.

Currently, the leftover straw is burnt which essentially means that it goes to waste. Farmers say recycling devices cost way too much and expect their respective state governments to offer more incentives for them not to resort to burning them. There is a ban on burning straw but there have been reports which claim farmers find it more economical to pay the penalty than invest in recycling machines. Ikea's plans of buying the straw could be a win-win situation for the company, the farmers as well as million who breathe the polluted air.

Currently, the situation over several north Indian cities - especially Delhi - is extremely grim with pollution levels far more than what is deemed acceptable by World Health Organisation. Medical experts mostly agree that respiratory problems are on the rise and premature deaths due to pollution pose a massive risk. State governments have largely failed to address the problem while the central leadership too has been silent. Locals, at least in Delhi, cannot shift the blame either with many flouting a Supreme Court directive on bursting firecrackers during Diwali during a stipulated time period. As such, Delhi and many other cities and towns have turned into a toxic chamber.