Ikea is planning to change their packaging in an effort to cut waste and increase the amount of recycling. The Swedish furniture giant indeed is considering replacing its polystyrene packaging with biodegradable fungus.“We are looking for innovative alternatives to materials, such as replacing our polystyrene packaging with mycelium-fungi packaging,” Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for IKEA in the UK, told The Telegraph.
The retailer is reportedly considering Ecovative Design’s compostable and biodegradable Mushroom Packaging that is made of mycelium (basically the root structure of mushrooms) and agricultural waste such as cornhusks and stalks.
Ecovative Design is a biomaterials company headquartered in New York that provides sustainable alternatives to plastics and polystyrene foams for packaging, building materials and other applications by using mushroom technology.
According to the newspaper ‘Albany Times Union’, IKEA goes through 7,400 truckloads of expanded polystyrene foam annually to package its flat packs of furniture.
Non-biodegradable, petroleum-based polystyrene is extremely difficult to recycle, meaning this No. 6 plastic often ends up in the landfill. Contrary to that, mushroom packaging biodegrades naturally in a compost or backyard within a few weeks.
To create a solid structure, the fungus fibers and waste bind together over the course of a few days. The materials are then dried to stop growth and prevent it from producing mushrooms or spores.
“The great thing about mycelium is that you can grow it into a mold that then fits exactly. You can create bespoke packaging,” Yarrow said at a recent Aldersgate Group sustainability event in London.
The material is also being used to make surfboards and drones.
Mushroom materials are cost competitive with plastic foams at volume, the company says. Ecovative can keep prices down indeed “because it doesn’t rely on fossil fuels to produce materials. It doesn’t have an expensive factory, just molds that hold the Myco Foam while it hardens.”
“IKEA wants to have a positive impact on people and planet, which includes taking a lead in turning waste into resources, developing reverse material flows for waste materials and ensuring key parts of our range are easily recycled,” the spokesman said.
Ikea isn’t the first company to incorporate mycelium packaging. Dell has been using it for servers for a few years already, but given the amount of flat-pack furniture people buy, this move should help stop polystyrene consumption and lead the way for more eco-friendly packaging.