Apr 21 2023

Mycelium, Packaging, and Hope for a Plastic Free Planet

It’s not news that the environmental problems we face today are the result of human activity, and that there’s no more time to wait for solutions. Luckily, waiting isn’t necessary — We humans can change our activity today, because the solutions are all around us, and mycelium is one of the most exciting. Mushrooms represent many things to many people, but to us they represent hope. Our Director of Commercialization, Meghan Olson, explored why in her recent TEDx talk.

There are over 36 million packages delivered daily just in the United States. Most of it is stuffed with plastic, especially ‘expanded polystyrene’. Also called EPS or Styrofoam, it’s usually thrown straight into the landfill after one use. This makes packaging an area of immense potential for positive environmental impact. That’s why in 2021, Mushroom® Packaging relaunched with new facilities, website, and a fast-growing list of clients.

We work with mycelium to create truly sustainable alternatives to plastic — Really, mycelium does a lot of the work, we harness its ability to bind the woody core of hemp stalks into a beautiful, durable composite material that’s also completely compostable. Since our packaging grows itself, it requires only 20 percent of the energy to produce a piece of EPS, 10% of the water, and half the CO2. Even better, it doesn’t require any chemicals or hidden ingredients to produce, and by using hemp stalks, we repurpose a piece of the plant that is otherwise wasted.

With the rise of e-commerce over the last three years, people seem to have finally recognize that we can’t sustain the sheer volume of plastic entering the waste stream each day. We’ve seen a boom in interest in sustainable alternatives, so big that we had to commission a brand new, 120,000 square foot production facility to keep up. In one year, we and our licensees around the world made over 2 million pieces of Mushroom Packaging — each piece representing an equivalent amount of plastic kept out of the landfill, as well as our oceans and rivers.

That all sounds great, doesn’t it? Mushroom Packaging is a sustainable, attractive and cost-effective solution with numerous benefits, so why isn’t it already the new normal? Our clients love the unique aspects of our packaging, like its velvety texture and sweet smell, and their customers enjoy it, too — We often hear that people remember the packaging as much as the product it’s protecting. But plastics are so readily available they could almost be mistaken for natural, when even nature doesn’t know what to do with them. One obstacle is a hesitancy to embrace solutions that are less familiar than the problem they solve.

By 2050, scientists predict that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. And that plastic will be around for decades, maybe centuries. What sense does it make for packaging to last longer than the product it protects? It’s time for a major paradigm shift. We need to embrace the planet-compatible solutions that already exist. When you’re working with nature, the solutions aren’t exactly new, sometimes they’re as old as life itself. By working with nature, we can find ready solutions, and realign our modern lifestyle with the needs of a living Earth. All it requires is look beyond the universe of plastics swirling all around us, and when we do, the world becomes a brighter place.

Click here to visit Mushroom Packaging’s website, and learn more about its solutions for protecting the planet from plastic.

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