Furnishing Reuse Case Study- IKEA Kitchen Cabinet Project

IKEA Toronto had 260 tonnes of end of life Kitchen Cabinets?

In the spring of 2020, I had the privilege of working with Melissa Barbosa of IKEA and her team along with my partners at Furniture Bank in Toronto and members of the Furniture Bank Network on IKEA’s ‘’Big Give’ for COVID-19 relief. The gift was conditional on being able to commit to national distribution through multiple independently run charities. This type of national response had never been done before but the need and suffering was great and we made it happen – from Vancouver to St. John’s and in between. Ne

IKEA donated over $2 million worth of furniture, linens, housewares and toys to help shelter families in crisis across Canada. To date, this donation has created homes out of housing for over 2000 individuals and families across Canada. 

On the heels of this very successful project, Dan Kershaw, Executive Director of Furniture Bank and I were on a call with Haroon Azam and Sarahjayne Benedict of IKEA and were told that IKEA in Toronto had a large amount of unused kitchen components (boxes, doors, drawers, hinges)  in a discontinued style. It was taking up ‘a lot’ of space in the Mississauga warehouse. How much was ‘a lot’? Over 880 pallets,13,985 square feet of warehouse space and $4,000,000 of retail value. If they could not find a reuse avenue for this product and find a way to transport it, store it and use it, IKEA had no choice but to discard it. Could we help? Dan and I immediately said YES! 

Having committed to moving, storing and using the equivalent of 1000 kitchens worth of cabinets without a plan, we set out to break down the challenge. Furniture Bank could use its trucks to move the goods if IKEA would pay the equivalent in transportation costs to sending to a dump. IKEA immediately said yes so that was one problem solved.

Furnishing Reuse Case Study- IKEA Kitchen Cabinet Project 1

Now, the hard part remained. What to do with all these kitchen cabinets?

Furniture Bank has a longstanding history of partnering with the City of Toronto Housing programs and providing furniture to make home out of housing as a critical support service. During the pandemic, Furniture Bank worked alongside the City of Toronto to fill 400 units with household goods to meet the needs of the Rapid Housing Initiative. Working with Allan Olexson of the Toronto Partnership Office, we secured warehousing space and identified a use for the cabinets. In turn these kitchen components could be used by the City of Toronto and Toronto Housing in their future programs to renovate and rehabilitate older housing stock.

What were the lessons learned here?

Dan and I have worked together a long time and believe there is no replacement for trust in being able to innovate, take risks and generate creative solutions. Here that included the trust between myself and my company Furniture Link and Dan’s team at the Furniture Bank, the trust that IKEA had that we could deliver what we promised, our trust that IKEA understands that even charities need cash flow and lastly and very importantly, that Furniture Bank and have a long history with the City of Toronto supporting homelessness and poverty related programs. 

What was gained by saying YES?

  • This preserved 20 tractor trailers worth of Toronto landfill space (247 tonnes of kitchen cabinets)
  • The City of Toronto saved millions in construction materials for over a 1000 kitchens and storage cabinets in future projects in 14,000 sq ft of storage space.
  • Furniture Bank earned funds from the transport of the goods that supports the operation of the charity. 
  • IKEA spent no additional funds to avoid landfill and put these new cabinets in use at the end of their life. 
  • Clients of Toronto Housing can look forward to clean, new fresh kitchens that they can be proud of. 
  • Once it is time for the cabinets to be assembled, that activity will generate employment either directly through the City of Toronto or through one of the social enterprises that provide employment to persons transitioning out of poverty, like Furniture Bank.

Thanks from the Mayor of Toronto too!

I was honoured to receive a personal letter from Toronto Mayor John Tory thanking me and my company Furniture Link Inc. for our role in coordinating this gift. Being a part of the Mayor’s program to support housing and creating homes out of that housing during this COVID-19 crisis is one of the most satisfying things I have done in my career. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute!

Letter of thanks from mayor

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