Your future purchases from IKEA may come encased in packaging that could help feed your tomatoes or make the red in your roses a little bit deeper.
IKEA is tossing around the idea of phasing out polystyrene and replacing it with mycelium packaging made by Evocative Design, which is both compostable and biodegradable. Mycelium is made from the root structure of mushrooms, plus agricultural waste like corn husks and stalks.
You could literally use the packaging that your lamp came in to nourish your garden. If you’re just lazy, you could toss it in your backyard and it will biodegrade within a month. Wouldn’t your neighbors love that?
Mycelium is created when the fungus fibers and agricultural waste bind together over several days. The materials are then dried to stop growth and prevent it from producing mushrooms or spores. 
Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for IKEA in the UK, said at a recent Aldersgate Group sustainability event in London:
“The great thing about mycelium is you can grow it into a mold that then fits exactly. You can create bespoke packaging.” 
Polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam, is a petroleum-based product which has been known to cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract, as well as cause gastrointestinal problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified styrene, the main component of polystyrene, a possible human carcinogen. 
According to California Clean Water Action, a study of beach debris at 43 sites along the Orange County coast found that Styrofoam was the second most abundant form of beach debris. Since it is composed of 95% air, Styrofoam litter easily works its way from land and into waterways. Like plastics, Styrofoam photodegrades, meaning that it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and marine animals easily mistake it for food.
If you’ve ever purchased coffee in a Styrofoam travel cup or taken leftovers from a restaurant home in a Styrofoam box and wondered why there was a “do not microwave” warning on it, that’s because microwaving polystyrene causes toxic chemicals to leach out of it and into the food or liquid. These toxins threaten human health and the reproductive system.
Shockingly, styrene residues are found in 100% of all samples of human fat tissue.
IKEA uses some 7,400 truckloads of expanded polystyrene foam every year to package its furniture, so a switch to mycelium would be a big help to the environment.
(Featured image is simply a representation of styrofoam)
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.