Partnering for a more sustainable, inclusive futureIn 2016, IKEA and i-did partnered to develop a limited-edition product collection made from local textile leftovers from IKEA. Together with IKEA Netherlands and IKEA of Sweden (product development), the partnership resulted in unique collections sold in stores throughout the Netherlands. In 2020 we expanded our partnership and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship provided financial support to allow i-did to invest in developing its recycling process and expand the business. The grant was used to design, build, and install the new factory—the first circular felt factory in the world.
Reducing waste, creating jobs
Today, there are many people who struggle to secure decent work and establish new skills. This often holds them back and can lead to exclusion, low self-esteem, and a lack of integration into society.
At the same time, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste are created each year—the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ending up on landfill sites every second.
With the opening of its new factory — made possible with funding from IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, together with Rabobank Foundation and DOEN Foundation — social enterprise i-did addresses both these challenges under one roof.
A fully circular textile chain
Its team, led by Mireille Geijsen and Michiel Dekkers, support people who have never or have not worked for a long time, for whatever reason, to get back to work. In partnership with local government, i-did employs people on a six-month or one-year basis. During this time, individuals are provided training in the art of producing acoustic interior products, bags, and accessories from recycled felt as well as work-based coaching and guidance to help get them their next job. Each year around 100 people join i-did’s programme in The Netherlands with 70% of the employees going on to get a paid job at other employers across the region.
The products made by i-did employees are all produced from felt that has been created from textile surpluses that would otherwise be incinerated or end up in a landfill. The recycled felt is made from consumer clothing or company clothing such as old uniforms from the Dutch Department of Defence, KLM, and IKEA.
Another step on the path to scaleSince inception, i-did has recycled over 51,000 kg of waste textiles. The opening of the new factory, with its custom-designed machinery, means that i-did will be able to increase capacity and scale operations. Previously, i-did was only able to process large quantities of old clothing to make recycled felt. With the opening of the factory, it will be possible to process small volumes of old textiles, to recycle many different types of textiles, and to produce recycled felt completely circularly.
The factory means more work paths become available for more people on long-term assistance. i-did will require more employees to assist in the factory and employees will gain training in factory operations, in addition to felt product manufacturing.
This is yet another key milestone on i-did's journey to scale its sustainable and social impact. The factory provides the opportunity for various research and development projects to find new ways to expand and support more people. The fully circular textile recycling model will be used as a test base to develop strategies for further expansion into new markets and sectors.
"It is great to propagate our shared social values with IKEA”, says Mireille Gijsen. “The support from IKEA Social Entrepreneurship makes it possible to take the step to open the factory. This in turn makes it possible to make the social model scalable."