Ikea's sustainability campaign marches on. After launching the vegan edition of its famous meatballs and transitioning to using only sustainably grown cotton, the Swedish furniture retailer recently revealed that it's planning to introduce eco-friendly packaging. Speaking at an event in London last week, Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for Ikea in the UK, announced that the company is looking into replacing polystyrene, a common plastic used in a lot of packaging, with a biodegradable fungi-based material.
According to The Telegraph, the specific product Ikea is working with is something called "Mushroom Packaging," developed by U.S. firm Ecovative. The material is created by growing mycelium—think of it as branching "mushroom roots"—around agricultural waste like corn stalks and husks. In a few days' time, the mycelium and waste combine into a solid mass that is then dried into usable material. Whereas polystyrene might take thousands of years to decompose, this mushroom-based product would decompose naturally in a few weeks. Another benefit is that it could be grown to a specific mould, creating, in Yarrow's words, "bespoke packaging."
Though the material hasn't yet made it into boxes filled with your favorite Ikea items, it's for sure a rising sustainable material. The Telegraph reports that computer giant Dell currently uses Ecovative's product for packaging its large computer servers, and a number of UK-based companies are trying out Mushroom Packaging as well. In New York, where Ecovative has opened a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, the mycelium-based material has famously been employed as "eco bricks" in Hy-Fi, the winning installation of MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program in 2014, designed by "biotecture" firm The Living.