Kitchener-Waterloo

Ikea furniture recycling idea wins contest for Wilfrid Laurier students

A team of Wilfrid Laurier University students will have the opportunity to influence global furniture giant Ikea thanks to their own ingenuity and some cutting-edge technology.

Team of 5 BBA students comes up with idea involving 3D printers

Olga Dementev holds a stool-top that she and her colleagues created with a 3D printer as part of their recycling pitch to Ikea. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

A team of Wilfrid Laurier University students will have the opportunity to influence global furniture giant Ikea, thanks to their own ingenuity and some cutting-edge technology.

Olga Dementev and four of her second-year university colleagues won a pitch contest aimed at WLU business administration students that asked for ways to make Ikea more sustainable.

Their idea: to have Ikea furniture returned to its stores so that it can be broken down and remade.

"We'd essentially be taking old furniture regardless of material or size and make it into new furniture, which we would 3D print," Dementev told The Morning Edition on Monday. 3D printers take scans of objects — from droids to body parts — and reproduce them in exact detail.

Dementev said at first she and her team weren't sure how feasible the idea was, but when they looked into it they discovered almost any material can used so long as it's broken down the right way.

She said customers could bring in old furniture or have it picked up by IKEA during new furniture deliveries. The company already has a mattress recycling program that it could piggyback, she said.

Eco-friendly and durable

To show their plan could be done, she and her team used a 3D printer in Toronto to make a stool top.
Ikea announced last week it was coming to Kitchener. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press/File)

"We just wanted to show that it was very possible to make something that's very eco-friendly and it's kind of cool looking," she said, adding the model is biodegradable and durable.

The team came up with its original plan in just three days, competing against 39 other teams. They also spent two weeks making a video and then a final presentation.

Dementev said the team will fly to Alberta to see IKEA's windmill farm, and will work with Brendan Seale, an IKEA sustainability leader, to work with him on the recycling plan, or possibly another idea.

The Swedish company announced a new location in Kitchener as part of a Canada-wide expansion of its retail operations last week. 

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