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Ikea: Mushroom Packaging May Replace Polystyrene

Feb 28, 2016 09:14 PM EST

Ikea recently confirmed that it is considering using packaging composed of mushrooms as a replacement for polystyrene.

Joanna Yarrow, head of the furniture retailer's sustainability department in the United Kingdom, said that Ikea is possibly going to use mycelium "fungi packaging," which is biodegradable, in its efforts to lower waste and increase recycling.

In mushrooms, mycelium acts as the fungus' roots. It is made up of branched fibers, sticking to soil or whatever surface on which it grows.

The U.S. company Ecovative, based in Green Island, N.Y., is the developer of the product. They did so by allowing mycelium to grow near clean waste from agriculture, like corn husks or stalks. In days, the fibers of the fungus make a solid shape as they bind the waste in a mass. The resulting shape is then dried, which keeps it from growing further.

Yarrow said in an article that Ikea is looking into using mycelium because many polystyrene products cannot easily be recycled.

Polystyrene is a substance that needs thousands of years to break down, but mycelium material can be thrown into the garden, where it biodegrades within weeks.

Another positive about mycelium, as Yarrow noted, is that it can be grown into a mold to create bespoke packaging.

Ecovative's founders originated the mushroom-produced material in 2006, and they have customers that include computer company Dell -- which uses the mycelium to package large computer servers.

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