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Mushrooms make better packaging than recycled cardboard

/ 07:03 PM September 28, 2020
20200928 Mushrooms stock

In the future, mushrooms could be used to create eco-friendly packaging. Image: IStock/temmuzcan

Pan-fried, in a cream sauce or perhaps as an alternative to cardboard. Contrary to all expectations, the use of mushrooms will no longer be confined to the kitchen. Serious research has now succeeded in transforming the fungus into a fully compostable equivalent of cardboard and major brands are keen to get their hands on the new material to package their products.

A reduction of 90% in carbon emissions when compared to plastics and complete decomposition in 30 to 90 days. Hopes are riding high for the humble mushroom, which may soon provide the base material for vast amounts of packaging.

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Seedlip, the world’s leading producer of non-alcoholic distilled spirits, will introduce on Nov. 1 new packaging for its products sold in the United States, which is entirely biodegradable within 45 days and fully compostable.

The company has chosen to collaborate with a British startup, the Magical Mushroom Company, which has succeeded in growing mycelium — a network of fungus roots — to create fibers that can be transformed into packaging material.

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The impressive new material is light, able to withstand heat, and can even be immersed in water. What is more, production of the new material is easy and fast. Whereas it takes five to seven years to grow a tree used to make cardboard, only seven days are needed to grow mycelium. According to Seedlip, cardboard is a far from ideal solution for green packaging. Along with paper, it accounts for 17% of the two billion tonnes of solid waste generated by the planet. By way of comparison, plastic accounts for 12%.

A bright future

In recent years, a growing number of projects have been experimenting with mycelium as an alternative to cardboard — and the green material may soon be adopted by mainstream industry. Furniture giant Ikea announced in 2019 that it intended to replace polystyrene with a mycelium-based material created by the New York company Evocative, which has been developing the biodegradable technology for 10 years.

Biomyc, a Bulgarian startup supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, has even managed to add an extra green dimension to the use of mycelium. The company collects agricultural byproducts such as straw, corn husks and tobacco stems, which are mixes with mycelium to form a bio-mass composite material with a wide range of uses that extend from packaging to construction. In 2018, BioMyc was honored as the best green European startup at the StartUp Europe Awards. CC

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TOPICS: carbon emissions, cardboard, compost, mushrooms, Pollution, solid waste
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