September 27, 2019

IKEA replaces polystyrene with more sustainable packaging solutions


IKEA moves into the future with a focus on efficient and sustainable packaging.

Up until recently, the sustainability revolution has heavily targeted the food packaging industry. Recent years witnessed public outcry over plastic bags, straws, and other single-use items. As a result, legislative agendas at the state and national level have been geared towards improving the environmental impact of food packaging.

Polystyrene foam bans thus far primarily call out the food packaging industry as well, eliminating single-use Styrofoam containers from restaurants. However, the entire packaging industry is on a shifted trajectory that involves widespread changes and sustainable improvements.

Amazon, Walmart and other major corporate leaders announced that they would be switching their packaging materials promising environmental improvements. IKEA is at the forefront of the sustainability movement and they will be eliminating all polystyrene material from their packaging in favor of eco-friendly alternatives.


IKEA makes the switch

The furniture company demonstrates their emphasis on removing polystyrene and improving the efficiency of their packaging in their Sustainability Report from 2016. Specifically, they use a Sustainability Product Scorecard to evaluate their environmental impact and establish goals for the future.

IKEA calls out expanded polystyrene in their analysis, criticizing how “hard to recycle” it is. They state, “We have now phased out EPS foam from all IKEA flat packs, reducing EPS foam volumes by 8,000 tonnes per year — more than half the volume of the Empire State Building!”

These polystyrene-free flat packs represent a positive step forward for sustainable packaging. IKEA will be utilizing a fiber-based material derived from mushrooms that offer similar moldable, protective cushioning while still being entirely natural and biodegradable. The packaging concept, from Ecovative Design, utilizes mycelium technology to form unique shapes and biodegrades in just 30 days – as compared to 500 years for polystyrene to decompose.


Going sustainable

The Swedish company has higher aims as well for their sustainability campaigns. In 2016, they announced a goal of deriving 90% of total sales from products classified as “more sustainable.” Additionally, they proudly assert that “approximately 98% of our home furnishing materials, including packaging, are made from renewable, recyclable or recycled materials.”

Replacing polystyrene packaging foam with more sustainable material is part of a larger campaign to cut down waste created across all facets of their business. IKEA’s 2018 Sustainability Report announces their mission to “eliminate waste from the…value chain by applying the principles of the circular economy.” This requires materials capable of recovery and reuse in order to support a circular system.


The importance of efficiency

IKEA emphasizes the importance of efficiency as a key aspect in the objective of improving their environmental impact. Their “roadmap for the future” focuses on “reducing the climate footprint by making every shipment as efficient as possible.” This allows them to accomplish their sustainable goals and maintain cost advantages, despite a business model founded on long-distance transit shipping.

Flat-packs are the critical ingredient in IKEA’s quest for efficient packaging solutions. By optimizing the packaging for each product, they are able to ship more items per load. “This results in fewer journeys,” states IKEA, as part of their commitment to sustainability, “which equates to less fuel consumption and fewer emissions.”

CEO Peter Agnefjäll’s personal “mantra,” writes Tom Blanck from Chainalytics, “is simple: ‘We hate air.’” Eliminating air in each product package dramatically improves the efficiency of the entire chain, reducing shipping costs and lowers the impact on the environment.


EPE’s sustainable packaging efficiency

EPE accomplishes our comparable goals, establishing sustainable transit shipping systems through efficient and optimized packaging designs. We utilize eco-friendly materials that represent direct replacements to polystyrene. We help companies make the switch from EPS to better alternatives.

Our innovative designs minimize the amount of protective material per package, using precisely engineered solutions to improve protection with significantly less material. EPE attains the same packaging efficiency that Agnefjäll preaches.

We optimize each product package to eliminate unnecessary material and “air” in each package, increasing the number of packages shipped per transit and decreasing the freight cost per package substantially.

The sustainability movement illustrates a crystal clear view of the future of the packaging industry – and it does not involve polystyrene. The food packaging world is currently experiencing dramatic changes, with bans and surging public demands. The movement is expanding rapidly and will soon encompass all industries, including the packaging world as a whole. IKEA has already replaced the wasteful and inefficient material from its packaging.


Don’t fall behind. Make the switch.

Talk to one of our packaging experts today about our innovative and sustainable packaging solutions.