Environment

Ikea Might Use Fungi To Replace Its Polystyrene Packaging

March 4, 2016 | by Tom Hale

Photo credit: An example of the mycelium-based packaging. Ecovative

One tenth of all furniture in Britain is from Ikea. Together with the rest of the European, Asian and North American sales – that’s a hell of a lot of furniture. But along with all the misplaced screws and marital arguments that come with its flat-pack furniture, comes a fair amount of packaging too. While the bulk of its cardboard packaging can be recycled, many packages come with a protective sheet of polystyrene foam, which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.

To help curb this unhealthy reliance on polystyrene, the Swedish flat-pack furniture giants are looking into using biodegradable “Mushroom Packaging," The Telegraph reports.

The product has been developed by Ecovative, who created a polystyrene-like material from the mycelium of fungi. Mycelium are the thread-like branches that make up the vegetative part of the fungi.

The mycelium grow around sanitized corn stalks or husks from local agricultural waste. After a couple of days of growth, the mycelium create an interwoven solid structure that fills any void it's placed in, meaning it can be molded to more or less any shape. The end of the process involves dehydrating the fungi to prevent it from growing further and sprouting mushrooms.

Mycelium growing. Ecovative.

Using these methods they can also create a stronger material that can be used as a substitute for particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard.

Best of all, the material will biodegrade on a compost heap in a matter of weeks, although remains stable in dry environments.

An Ikea spokesperson told The Telegraph: “We always look for new and innovative processes and sustainable materials that can contribute to our commitment. Mycelium is one of the materials IKEA is looking into, but it is currently not used in production."

Ikea aren’t the first company to show interest in mycelium-based packaging. Ecovative already have packaging deals with the computer company Dell and Stanhope Seta – a leading laboratory instruments manufacturer.

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