IKEA is Using Packaging Made out of Mushrooms

@TrueActivist

One of the largest furniture brands in the world has made it their mission to cut down on packaging waste. I had written a post several weeks ago about IKEA – and my love for the company as a whole – and it makes me so happy to see this. Now, the article I had found was from about 6 months ago, and I haven’t been to an actual store of theirs in that time frame. So I can’t back up my findings just yet. But let me get to it: packaging made of mushrooms.

Sounds kind of freaky. But also really really cool. The process goes something like this:

agricultural byproducts such as husk, oat hulls and cotton burrs, are pressed into a desired shape that can fit around items to be packaged. Then, it is seeded with mushroom spores that sprout mycelium (a root structure) after a few days. The mycelium threads rapidly through the structure and binds it together to form a shock-resistant and durable packaging material. The last step is to heat-treat the material to kill spores in order to arrest further growth of the fungus.

Medium

I recently posted about different plastic and their processes. So as someone who knows the basics on that, I find it extremely fascinating reading the above information. I can imagine this might take a lot longer to make (who knows how rapidly mushroom spores actually grow; I’ll have to research that another time) than a typical injection molded piece. But as an alternative to styrofoam – which is ungodly terrible for the environment – it’s a huge step in the right direction.

As a small tangent, if you’re interested in learning about a young boy who recently invented a way to recycle styrofoam, then watch this short TED talk! Super cool.

So, besides the biodegradable factor, what are the benefits to mushroom packaging? Here’s a few Medium listed:

  • It uses only 12% of the energy used in plastic production.
  • It produces 90% less carbon emissions than produced during plastic manufacture.
  • The total amount of carbon dioxide component in atmosphere remains almost undisturbed by growing fungi-based packaging. Fungi uses up carbon dioxide that gets incorporated into the packaging material. On disposal, packaging material gets decomposed or composted and returns the carbon dioxide back into the soil.
  • It decomposes with 30–90 days. Even if it is ingested by organisms, it has no dangerous side effects, although it has no nutritional benefits either.
  • Alternative packaging is a lucrative economic avenue. The global market for sustainable packaging is poised to reach more than US $142 billion in coming years. Presently, bio-plastics and green materials just constitute 1% of total packaging market share, so there is immense growth potential for manufacturers in this segment.
  • Rural communities can benefit financially by supplying agricultural wastes to mycelium manufacturers.

Hopefully this becomes a lot more accessible to companies worldwide. As IKEA sets the new standard for packaging, I’m curious to see what comes next!

Single-Use Plastic Packaging is Becoming Obsolete

Nohbo Shower Pods
@nohbo

I recently blogged about new strides in the world of packaging. In that post I had briefly discussed a few companies that had designed their packaging as product enhancement or as a new product sector altogether. I believe packaging of the future will go in two different directions: packaging as a product or the complete elimination of single-use packaging.

Personal care is one of the most overlooked areas in our lives when it comes to sustainability. The amount of product the average person uses in a year – toothpaste, toilet paper, lotion, skin care, shampoo/conditioner, the list goes on and on – is unbelievable. The average person is said to use 3-4 tubes of toothpaste a year; shampoo and conditioner, about 12 bottles for the average person. Now think of all the plastic. Each bottle, tube, dispenser, thrown out over and over again.

I know I personally haven’t thought about my container graveyard recently. It doesn’t seem like all that much – until you do the math. I stumbled upon the company Nohbo today, and I’m blown away. They created the first single-use, plastic-free shampoo Drop. You can see the detergent looking pods in the photo above or the sketches below.

NOHBO Pods Sketch

To use the product, you run the pod under water in the shower for a few seconds and the water-soluble casing dissolves, leaving you with the shampoo ready to use. How cool, right?!

Now, me being the Devil’s Advocate more often than not, I figured, “Wow this is all good and dandy, but I bet those drops are shipped in a single-use, throw-away packaging that completely defeats the purpose of all this cool stuff.” Turns out, yes they have packaging. But no, it’s not plastic. The external packaging is completely biodegradable, plant-based sugarcane resin. Not sure how that works, but their scientists have figured out some amazing stuff. So I’m very happy to say my fears were eradicated.

The company’s website has a lot of information, so I highly recommend checking it out. It says online they will be releasing conditioner, body wash, etc. sometime this year. I’m really tempted to buy some and experience it for myself. People are amazing.

Packaging as a product

@loop

It seems like everything has been invented. At least most of the things we use on a daily basis. When was the last time we were so blown out of the water by a product that the whole world actually changed? I’m talking, man on the moon, origin of the internet, kind of monumental moments.

Doesn’t seemed to be very progressive as of late. Sure, no one has reinvented the wheel, but we have Squatty Potties. Soooo, the industry seems to be moving in a life-altering direction, right? (That was extremely sarcastic in case anyone thought otherwise)

Anyways. I’ve seen a slow increase of packaging-centric products enter the market within the past year. A beer company in Florida created six-pack rings that can be eaten by marine life. Chiquita now has a sticker that can be used to track where that individual banana came from all over the globe. A wine company created augmented reality (AR) bottle labels that features characters speaking to you:

Now, clearly the fruit and alcohol markets have stepped up their games. But what’s next? We don’t know. However, packaging is increasingly a more integral part of why a product is actually purchased or not. As sustainability becomes more and more important – especially to young consumers – we see companies allocating extra time to their packaging, and not just the contents.

QR codes “died” a few years back, but with the fairly new iOS11 update for Apple products, users can simply snap a picture on their camera and pull up a QR code’s information. Before this update, you’d have to subject yourself to ad-infested apps that essentially took up space on your home screen for only a 2 minute usage every few months. So, with the ease-of-access modernized, these simple yet effective coding mechanisms could revolutionize the new-wave of packaging to come.

I’m not saying edible beer can rings are equivalent to Facebook or the Spork (very revolutionizing, guys). But with things like this, we could be heading into a whole new product sector – taking the packaging and making it its own product. Check out the new Loop startup that just announced its eco-friendly platform for 2019. Packaging no longer has to be purely disposable, wasteful, and obsolete. Now that’s pretty world-changing.