Mushroom Materials Create New Sustainable Packaging

Whoever thought we could enjoy mushrooms in more than one way? From whites, criminis, and portobellos to chanterelles and shiitakes, these mushrooms are making an appearance in our everyday lives in an innovative way through the use of packaging. Instead of dealing with all that pesky Styrofoam that is not exactly environmentally-friendly, mushrooms are now present in the form of packaging materials and could be the solution to the world’s problem of Styrofoam.

Mushroom-based packaging has been found to use 98% less energy than the commonly used Styrofoam material, instantly helping to eliminate the accumulation of waste. According to Green Biz, Ecovative Design—the maker of EcoCradle packaging and Greensulate insulation—has created these mushroom products by “growing mushroom fibres on agriculture waste like cottonseed, wood fibre, and buckwheat hulls.” It takes approximately one-tenth the amount of energy to manufacture these new improved mushroom materials than regular foam materials. Thanks to new technology, Mushroom Materials have another energy-efficient ace up their proverbial sleeve.

Further decreasing its energy footprint, Ecovative Design has developed a new sterilization technology that uses natural oils from cinnamon bark, oregano, thyme, and lemongrass to enable their growing process to significantly reduce their energy requirements. Through this technology, the mushroom fibres used to grow the material are enabled to be grown in the open air as opposed to clean room environments.

So how do mushroom fibres, agricultural waste, and natural oils become packaging? A mold is filled with the agricultural waste, mycelia, and mushroom roots. The mycelia and mushroom materials grow and digest the waste while conforming to the shape of the container. Once they have reached the desired form, it is heat-treated to stop the growth and the package material is done! According to another site called Legend Power, which also reported on this story, mycelium, a specific part of a mushroom, is even being utilized in other industries beyond packaging materials in the form of “lampshades, flowerpots, surfboards and building materials.”

This development is certainly an exciting innovation and one that could significantly reduce Styrofoam waste. Fingers crossed that this is the beginning of the end of foam materials that end up in our landfills!

 

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-Photo Credit: Amaya Perez

 

-Written by: Inés de Sequera