LONDON — Ikea is planning to use packaging made with mushrooms as an eco-friendly replacement for polystyrene.
The furniture retailer is looking at using the biodegradable mycelium “fungi packaging” as part of its efforts to reduce waste and increase recycling, Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for Ikea in the U.K., said.
Mycelium is the part of a fungus that effectively acts as its roots. It grows in a mass of branched fibres, attaching itself to the soil or whatever surface it is growing on.
The American company Ecovative developed the product, which it calls Mushroom Packaging, by letting the mycelium grow around clean agricultural waste, such as corn stalks or husks.
Over a few days, the fungus fibres bind the waste together, forming a solid shape, which is then dried to stop it growing any further.
Yarrow said Ikea was looking at introducing mycelium packaging because a lot of products that traditionally come in polystyrene cannot be recycled with ease or at all.
While polystyrene takes thousands of years to decompose, mycelium packaging can be disposed of simply by throwing it in the garden where it will biodegrade within weeks.
Speaking in London this week, Yarrow added: “The great thing about mycelium is you can grow it into a mould that then fits exactly. You can create bespoke packaging.”
Ecovative, whose founders invented the mushroom-based material in 2006, manufactures its packaging in Troy, New York.
Customers include computer giant Dell, which uses it to cushion large computer servers. It is thought that a small number of companies have started using it in Britain.
Ikea’s green drive has already seen it launch a vegetarian substitute for meatballs as a more eco-friendly alternative to the Swedish dish served in its cafes, because of concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions from rearing animals for beef and pork.