An innovative process that combines mycelium from mushrooms with agricultural waste could soon be used in packaging.
Packaging made from biowaste and mushrooms may sound like a farfetched idea, but as an alternative to Styrofoam and other plastic packaging it is closer to becoming a reality. An innovative process that combines mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, with agricultural waste, such as corn husks, can be used to produce bio-composite materials for packaging or other uses.
The end product is fully compostable and decomposes in roughly 6-9 months under proper conditions. As an alternative to Styrofoam and polystyrene products, that not only never biodegrade but also produce harmful hydrofluorocarbons, mycelium is a sustainable and closed-loop potential solution.
The use of mycelium technology isn’t exactly new. In fact, US-based Ecovative has been around since 2007, and counts Dell, Steelcase and Crate & Barre among their customers. But a newly renewed interest from investors and business incubators and a new crop of startups are looking to set up production in the EU to start offering mycelium-based packaging as a viable option in Europe as well. One such startup is BioMyc, recently named as one of the top 30 cleanteach startups by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and green startup of the year in Europe. They hope to be producing mycelium-based products as early as next year.
“We actually just sold our first products, and we’ve had tremendous progress with the lab scale technology that we are looking to build up to a small automated manufacturing facility by next February,” said Atanas Enev, Managing Partner at BioMyc.
The ability to mass produce in order to drive costs down and compete with Styrofoam will be an important factor on the uptake of the product. Europe alone produces a staggering 23 million tonnes of plastic for packaging annually. While changing consumption patterns and reducing the need for packaging entirely are important, alternatives to plastic packaging also have an important role to play, especially with more people turning to online shopping and international shipping.