Mushrooms make better packaging than recycled cardboard, research shows

In the future, mushrooms could be used to create eco-friendly packaging. ― Istock.com/AFP pic
In the future, mushrooms could be used to create eco-friendly packaging. ― Istock.com/AFP pic

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NEW YORK, Sept 25 ― 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 per cent 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. On November 1, the world's leading producer of non-alcoholic distilled spirits, Seedlip,  will introduce new packaging for its products sold in the US, which is entirely biodegradable within 45 days and fully compostable.

The company has chosen to collaborate with a British start-up (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. 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 per cent of the two billion tonnes of solid waste generated by the planet. By way of comparison, plastic accounts for 12 per cent.

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. Last year, the furniture giant Ikea announced 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 ten years.

Biomyc, a Bulgarian start-up 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 or tobacco stems, which it 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 honoured as the best green European start-up at the Start-up Europe Awards. ― AFP-Relaxnews

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