When most people think of IKEA, their thoughts tend to drift to that of oddly named furniture and tasty meatballs. Now, the corporation wants to be known for something new… mushrooms.
Recently, they’ve decided to eliminate the use of Polystyrene as a packing material and have now turned to exploring the use of mushrooms, or specifically, mushroom fibers. The new technology was developed by by New York company Ecovative, Mushroom® Packaging and is made by using mycelium, which functions similar to the roots of a plant. It can be used to bind other agricultural waste like corn husks. After it all grows together, it is broken down and placed into molds where it then quickly regrows it’s mycelium structure in the shape in which it’s needed.
IKEA’s head of sustainability in the UK, Joanna Yarrow said, “A lot of products come in polystyrene, traditionally, which can’t be – or is very difficult to – recycle. The great thing about mycelium is you can grow it into a mold that then fits exactly. You can create bespoke packaging.”
While polystyrene can take thousands of years to decompose, you can literally toss this packaging into your backyard and it will break down after just a couple weeks.
Ecovative explains that Mushroom® Packaging decomposes similar to how a wood table would. While in your home, a wood table will be sturdy and won’t break down. But leave the table outside, or break it into wood chips, and it will eventually decompose. In an IKEA warehouse, mycelium will retain its shape, but put it outside and the living organisms in dirt will break it down.
While IKEA is still considering the use of the Mushroom® Packaging, Dell computers is already using it to ship large server parts.
Here’s a really cool video about how the Mushroom packaging is made: