Expanded polystyrene [EPS] producers have called on furniture supplier giant Ikea to reconsider its plans to phase out oil-based EPS foams from its packaging.
The Swedish affordable furniture manufacturer announced in its sustainability report in December, that it was progressing towards the phasing out of the materials and "replacing it with fiber-based, fully recyclable materials."
In reaction to the announcement, U.S.-based EPS Industry Alliance and the Belgium-based European Manufacturers of EPS, issued a statement saying the measure was of little significance and was ‘paying lip service' to sustainability.
Ikea's move, according to the associations' Jan. 18 statement, “reduces EPS use by 8,000 [metric tons] a year, or, more than half of what can be in the Empire State Building.”
Ikea, it went on to say, has based its decision on “merely the public perception that paper is uniformly a superior environmental choice.”
The two associations also said that Ikea had not offered a significant point of reference as to what sustainability effects the change will have, or what trade-offs the paper alternative will bring about.
“Ikea fails to offer any point of reference to what percentage of EPS in their distribution chain they are phasing out or what environmental improvements occur from using fiber-based packaging,” it said.
EPS Industry Alliance went on to say that it had “repeatedly attempted to contact Ikea to offer science-based information on expanded polystyrene,” in response to the company's earlier announcements that it may discontinue the use of EPS in lieu of EcoCradle.
EcoCradle is a bio-sourced material developed by U.S. company Ecovative Design as an alternative to EPS.
The material, which has similar properties as synthetic foams, is produced through introducing fungal mycelium to agricultural byproducts like rice hulls or cotton gin trash.
“Despite both the U.S. and European EPS organizations contacting IKEA to discuss a full environmental analysis, Ikea declined to communicate at any level, showing a disregard for all available information,” the statement added.