Ikea turns to mush­rooms for green pack­ag­ing

National Post (Latest Edition) - - NEWS - Emily Gos­den

LON­DON • Ikea is plan­ning to use pack­ag­ing made with mush­rooms as an ecofriendly re­place­ment for poly­styrene.

The f ur­ni­ture re­tailer is look­ing at us­ing t he biodegrad­able mycelium “fungi pack­ag­ing” as part of its ef­forts to re­duce waste and i ncrease r ecy­cling, Joanna Yarrow, head of sus­tain­abil­ity for Ikea in the UK, 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 I kea 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 cafés, be­cause of con­cerns about the green­house gas emis­sions from rear­ing an­i­mals for beef and pork.

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