The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
IKEA Plans to Ditch Toxic Polystyrene for Biodegradable Mushroom Packaging
IKEA is planning to switch up their packaging in an effort to slash waste and increase recycling. The Swedish furniture giant is in talks to replace its polystyrene packaging with biodegradable fungus, The Telegraph reported.
Ecovative's Mushroom Packaging uses mushroom roots and recycled farm waste to create packaging. Photo credit: Evocative
"We are looking for innovative alternatives to materials, such as replacing our polystyrene packaging with mycelium-fungi packaging," Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for IKEA in the UK, told The Telegraph.
The retailer is reportedly considering Evocative Design's compostable and biodegradable Mushroom Packaging that's made of mycelium (basically the root structure of mushrooms) and agricultural waste such as corn husks and stalks.
According to the Albany Times Union, IKEA goes through 7,400 truckloads of expanded polystyrene foam annually to package its flatpacks of furniture.
Non-biodegradable, petroleum-based polystyrene—which you might know under its trade name, Styrofoam—is difficult to recycle, meaning this No. 6 plastic often ends up in the landfill.
Unlike traditional styrofoam packaging such as fast food containers and packing peanuts, Mushroom Packaging naturally biodegrades in a compost or backyard in a few weeks.
To create a solid structure, the fungus fibers and waste bind together over the course of a few days. The materials are then dried to stop growth and prevent it from producing mushrooms or spores.
"The great thing about mycelium is you can grow it into a mold that then fits exactly. You can create bespoke packaging," Yarrow said at a recent Aldersgate Group sustainability event in London.
IKEA is looking at introducing the climate friendly product packaging because "a lot of products come in polystyrene, traditionally, which can’t be—or is very difficult to—recycle," Yarrow said.
Mushroom Materials are cost competitive with plastic foams at volume, the company says. According to Marketplace, Evocative can keep prices down "because it doesn't rely on fossil fuels to produce materials. It doesn't have an expensive factory, just molds that hold the Myco Foam while it hardens."
An IKEA spokesman confirmed to The Telegraph that they were working with Evocative.
"IKEA wants to have a positive impact on people and planet, which includes taking a lead in turning waste into resources, developing reverse material flows for waste materials and ensuring key parts of our range are easily recycled," the spokesman said.
“IKEA has committed to take a lead in reducing its use of fossil–based materials while increasing its use of renewable and recycled materials.”
An Ecovative spokeswoman told The Albany Times Union there has been no formal announcement regarding a partnership with IKEA.
"Ecovative does not discuss partnerships prior to joint announcements," she said.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.