Mushroom-based packages an eco-friendly alternative to plastic

Written By: Thatcher Michelsen March 29, 2012 1
The mushroom-made packaging is technically edible.
The mushroom-made packaging is technically edible.

Consumers who are looking to go green will likely purchase environmentally friendly products. These items, however, are still typically packaged with cardboard and plastic. While these materials may be recyclable or made of recycled goods, they aren't entirely sustainable. That may seem nitpicky, but there is, in fact, a greener way to keep retail items safe for sale without using any wasteful materials.

One company found a way to turn mushrooms into packaging blocks, which turned out to be so effective that some of the world's largest manufacturers are buying into the trend.

Ecovative Design was founded five years ago by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, who met as mechanical engineering and design students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, according to The Associated Press. The company uses mycelium, which are essentially mushroom "roots," to make soft packaging blocks that serve as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastic wrap or cardboard.

From its upstate New York factory, Ecovative makes thousands of these blocks that are used by companies like Dell and Crate and Barrel to package their products, the news source reports.

The process to create these blocks is "low-tech biotech," Bayer explained to the media outlet. First, the mycelium is pasteurized and put into plastic molds.

"The mix is covered for about five days as millions of mycelium strands grow around and through the feedstock, acting as a kind of glue," the AP reports. "The piece is heat dried to kill the fungus, insuring that mushrooms can't sprout from it. Since the mycelium is cloned, the product does not include spores, which can trigger allergies."

While the biodegradable blocks are safe to eat, it's recommended that consumers simply appreciate how they help the environment, rather than actually consume them.

One Comment »

  1. Liza T April 13, 2012 at 6:49 am - Reply

    What if the fungus multiplies and “gets loose” and starts eating all the plastic in the world? You wake up in the morning and the dashboard of your SUV is gone???

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