[Image Courtesy of Wikimedia]
The ready-to-assemble furniture giant IKEA announced they might be using packaging made with mushrooms rather that traditional polystyrene.
The mycelium packaging comes from mushroom roots, essentially, and the material boasts a slew of benefits. It's naturally fire resistant. It can be safely designed and molded with ease. It comes at a competitive cost with traditional packaging product. The biggest plus is that it's not derived from petroleum or food, keeping its environmental impact minimal.
The US-based company Ecovative developed the product by letting mycelium grow around natural waste like corn husks. The fungus grew around the debris and dried to form a solid shape once it finished growing.
The material also doesn't decompose without being exposed to living organisms. Just as an unfinished piece of wood won't ruin indoors, neither will the mushroom packaging. To compost it, simply break it apart and put it in with soil or natural elements.
The current popular alternative in packaging is polystyrene, a plastics-based material that takes thousands of years to decompose in landfills. It's often very difficult to recycle.
While the mushroom containers aren't being used by the company yet, Ecovative is definitely working with IKEA for further development.
A spokesman for the retailer told the Telegraph:
"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.
“IKEA has committed to take a lead in reducing its use of fossil –based materials while increasing its use of renewable and recycled materials.”
IKEA wouldn't be the first company to use mycelium-based materials. Computer company Dell uses it to package large computer servers.
The multi-national IKEA chain has over 300 stores world-wide. In the US alone, IKEA rakes in $33 billion and it's become one of the fastest growing companies within a decade. Their decision to replace polystyrene with mushroom packaging could help set an industry standard of sustainable packaging.