Plastic straws, plastic containers, plastic decor that go inside a carton box. It seems that many —if not most— companies still rely on the petroleum-based product for most of their packaging and products. However, there is a natural element which occupies little to no space, is easily malleable and has the potential to transform into hundreds of different products: mycelium.
Mycelium is a mass of hyphae, the long vegetative structures that are the core of fungi, which absorbs nutrients from the environment and releases carbon dioxide. The complex structure of mycelium makes it so that it can be transformed into clothing, plant-based meals, and even construction and packaging materials.
Put simply, mycelium’s multicellular fibers grow incredibly fast and are invisible to the human eye. It can be used in a plethora of ways, but it’s most commonly being used currently as an amazing alternative to plastic packaging.
It’s not difficult to see why companies such as Lush and Wildsmith Skin have migrated to using mycelium as the base material in their packaging. The fungi structure doesn’t require much energy —as it absorbs whatever is around it in any room temperature— and uses a minimal amount of water, meaning it doesn’t need complex storing systems or toxic chemicals for it’s growth. This affordability and practicality already gives mycelium a big leverage over using plastic.
But that’s not where the advantages end. Mycelium used for packaging is water and flame resistant; it’s a hydrophobic material with a poor ignition source. Companies can rest assured that the product the mycelium packaging is protecting will not burst into flames or be completely soaked.
Finally, there’s a big bonus for the consumers that are striving for a more sustainable lifestyle. After mycelium has been transformed into a packaging product, the consumer can easily use it for compost. After all, mycelium has been known for being great at organically breaking down soil.
This is only a sneak peek of what bio-based technology can do. It proves once again that there are alternatives that are all around beneficial to the environment, companies and consumers alike. Mycelium shows that great chemicals aren’t always needed to create great packaging.