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Ikea plans eco-friendly boxes made from mushrooms

Ikea plans to replace its polystyrene packaging with eco-friendly boxes made from mushrooms, it has been reported.

Green-thinking bosses at the Swedish furniture giant are said to be looking into introducing the biodegradable alternative as part of a series of changes designed to improve sustainability.

The so-called 'fungi packaging' is made by US-based firm Ecovative using mycelium, the unseen part of a mushroom made up of millions of tiny fibres.

Pioneering: An example of the made-to-measure 'fungi packaging' created by US-based company Ecovative

Ecologically, mycelium’s function is to break down waste. The process causes it to secrete enzymes and proteins which can act as a glue to bond items together into a solid shape.

As it is 'growing' mycelium can be manipulated into a range of sizes and densities, much like plastic, making it ideal for containers and packaging.

Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for Ikea in the UK, told the Daily Telegraph the company was looking into the material because 'a lot of products come in polystyrene, traditionally, which can't be - or is very difficult to – recycle'.

In contrast mushroom packaging can naturally biodegrade in just a few weeks. 

An Ikea spokesman confirmed to the newspaper that mycelium is one of the materials it is looking into using but that it is not currently used in production. 

The Swedish firm has promised it will adopt a series of changes by 2020 that will boost communities and the environment.

 

Green-thinking: Ikea has promised it will adopt a series of changes by 2020 that will boost the environment

Two of which include plans to invest £755million into renewable energy for poor communities and also ensuring all of the energy used in its branches comes from clean sources.

This idea of living more sustainably and protecting the planet has even influenced the menu in its restaurants, particularly the much-loved meatballs.

The company is now offering a vegetarian alternative to meat, production of which is associated with greenhouse gases. 

Mycelium is already used by a number of companies around the world. Ecovative already supplies mushroom packaging to Dell computers called EcoCradle, which acts as a subsitute for polystyrene. 

Founders Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer have previously built a 'self-fixing' house using the material and have said cars could one day be built with mushroom parts. 

What's the Least Biodegradable Form of Packaging?

Biodegradable packaging

Today’s world has created a new generation of packaging materials that are focused on eco-friendliness and recyclability. The reality is that most products that you can use for packing today are going to be recyclable to some extent. However, there are still forms of packing materials out there that are not as friendly and that will take forever to biodegrade. Even with all of the recent advancements in technology, there are products that are going to be the worst to use for packing in terms of biodegradability, and you should be aware of them so that you can reduce your impact successfully.

Even with recyclable materials and improvements in eco-friendly packaging, plastic still remains the least biodegradable product that you can buy. There are plastics that are recyclable and biodegradable, of course, but they have to be disposed of properly. In the event that these products are simply sent to the landfill, they will still take years and years to completely degrade and become a part of the earth. Paper and cardboard packaging supplies are much more biodegradable and eco-friendly regardless of how they are handled. If you are truly in need of plastic or other chemical-based packing materials for your shipments, you should ensure that you use them sparingly and recycle them accordingly to get the most out of your packing and shipping.

Plastics have always been a constant source of debate. While air bags and plastic materials used for packaging are a great way to protect shipments and keep things safe, they are also going to take up valuable space in landfills and won’t break down as quickly as other materials that are available for packaging in today’s world. It’s always important to think about what you are shipping and which materials will be the most protective as well as the most eco-friendly so that you can reduce your impact on the planet.

With so many different packaging materials out there to choose from, it isn’t difficult for you to find materials that will suit your needs. Whether you need a lot of materials to protect your items or just something unique that allows your items to stand out, you can find plenty of solutions that are eco-friendly and biodegradable. If you are going to use plastic, make sure that it can be discarded accordingly or that it has a high biodegradability so that you aren’t using materials that are harmful to the environment.