Quantcast

Are Mushrooms the Future of Zero Waste Packaging?

Business

A concept we're hearing more and more about is "zero waste." Many businesses, organizations and events are putting in place reuse and recycling measures that are causing the amount of trash they're sending to landfills to plummet. It also means rethinking the products we use in the first place so we can use less of things with no recycle potential. That's why bans on single-use plastic bags  are being enacted around the globe and efforts are being made to discourage consumption of products like bottled water that come in one-use plastic containers.

You can drink the wine and compost the packing it came in. Photo credit: Ecovative Design

Some innovative companies are coming up with other products to replace those that might have had a long lifespan in a landfill. One such product is Mushroom Packaging, conceived and created by Ecovative Design, a company formed by a pair of students at New York's Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in 2007. The company is making compostable bioplastics using mushroom mycelium and agricultural “waste” to create an alternative to traditional foam packaging such as fast food containers and packing peanuts. And Mushroom Materials are climate friendly. Unlike plastics, they involve no petroleum-based chemicals sourced from fossil fuels whose extraction fuels climate change

"Welcome to the Mushroom Age," the company says. "Let's look back on the Stone Age, the Metal Age and the Plastic Age. Materials have defined the world and how we live for millennia. Welcome to the Mushroom Age ... giving back to Mother Nature, for a change. Ecovative is a material science company developing a new class of home-compostable bioplastics based on mycelium, a living organism. Mushroom Materials are high-performance, environmentally responsible alternatives to traditional plastic foam packaging, insulation, and other synthetic materials."

OK, "Mushroom Age" may be overstating it but the company's idea is intriguing and it's proving workable. Mushroom Materials provides molded protective packaging to ship a range of products from wines to furniture delicate electronics. They perform just like those non-biodegradable plastic foam pieces, only they're home compostable. So instead of throwing them in the wastebasket, you can toss them in your composting bin with your vegetable scraps.

Home decor chain Crate & Barrel began its efforts to reduce waste and recycle in 2001 when it stopped using petroleum-based packing peanuts to ship customer orders. When it went looking for fully compostable packaging to protect its steel bookcases, it turned to Ecovative and Mushroom Materials.

"Since beginning their use of Mushroom Packaging corner blocks, Crate & Barrel has reported no damages," says Ecovative. "Customers can reuse the standard corner blocks or compost them at home."

Mushroom Materials also creates plastic-replacement materials for longer term use. They developed a material that can replace plastics in automobile interiors to protect passengers. And the company has developed a home insulation product from agricultural wastes that would avoid the negative environmental impacts of petrochemical-based insulation materials.

"In nature, there is no waste," says Ecovative's Sam Harrington. "Everything is food for something else. Tree 'waste' (aka leaves) feed bugs and mushrooms, which feed animals, and animal 'waste' fertilizes the trees (and also feeds bugs and mushrooms). But today, we humans are increasingly reliant on materials like plastic that don’t fit into natural systems. The beauty of Mushroom Packaging is that it will break down naturally at low temperatures at home. It’s made of materials that grow on farms and in forests, and there’s nothing artificial about it. From the Earth, to the Earth … and that makes us feel good."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Watch Bill Gates Drink Water From Human Waste

Can Shoes Generate Renewable Energy with Every Step We Take?

Wind Turbine Trees Generate Renewable Energy for Urban Settings

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less