Materials and Sustainability

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

3 Sustainable materials and why they are an appropriate alternative to traditional packaging


MOULDED MYCELIUM PACKAGING

Moulded mycelium packaging is made from agricultural waste mixed with mycelium, being a root-like structure, to binding the product together naturally using the fungi’s ecological fibres. This product is a suitable alternative for packaging in place of petroleum-based alternatives because it is:

- Lightweight material that is easy to mould and produce

- A sustainable alternative to polystyrene foam

- Compostable and biodegradable

- More cost effective than petroleum-based alternatives

- An effective and adequate protection for packaged products

(Flagel, 2020)



BIO PLASTICS

Bio Plastics were created to replace the use of petroleum-based plastics. Bioplastics are a more eco-friendly and appropriate alternative for plastic based packaging as they are derived from plant based sources: the sugars found in sugarcane; corn starch; and cassava, as opposed to fossil fuels.

Despite the use of bioplastics reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as opposed to traditional plastics other environmental impacts are still apparent including water use, land use and deforestation.

In their production processes bioplastics reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to traditional plastics however they still affect the environment through their use of water, land use and deforestation. Bioplastic impact and its severity will vary depending on its many forms therefore environmental impacts must still be considered when weighing up the use of bioplastics

(Flannigan, 2020).


COMPOSTABLE PACKING PEANUTS

Starch based packing peanuts have been developed in place of the traditional polystyrene option as the products environmental impact is minimal. The starch based substitute is completely biodegradable and dissolvable with water meaning there isn’t any issues with water way pollution or contributions to landfill. This packaging alternative still maintains the same protective properties as the polystyrene alternative therefore becoming a seamless swap.



Lets take a closer look at one of these...


MOULDED MYCELIUM PACKAGING

From raw material through to finished product


Moulded mycelium packaging is made from agricultural waste mixed with mycelium, being a root-like structure, to binding the product together naturally using the fungi’s ecological fibres.

As a raw material, mushrooms eat cellulosic waste and transform that into their structural form. In doing so creating a hard polymer much like plastic that binds everything together making it a sturdy and durable choice for packaging.


Product manufacturing begins with a mix of agricultural bi products that may include hemp, wood chips or psyllium husks which is mixed with mycelium and water to form the bio-composite mush.

The mycelium mixture becomes a growing glue that has the ability to be pressed into custom moulds to suit to the desired shape for packaging.


Moulds begin by creating a CAD model of the intended form. It is then machined with a CNC router which is used to then thermoform a positive shape from PET (polyethylene).


Moulds are able to be reused to create several more packaging forms. In addition, PET is a thermo plastic so it has the ability to be reformed reheated and recycled at end of life.


The mycelium mixture is placed into the moulds and left for up to 4 days in a dark place allowing the natural structure to form and grow as the fungus feeds on the agricultural bi products.


After the material has been formed it is then sent to a drying oven to heat treat and stop the growth process. This eliminates the presence of spores or allergens.

The form is then popped out of the mould and ready for packaging use. The moulded mycelium packaging is now a suitable substitute in place of petroleum-based alternatives. This process is more cost effective and maintains adequate protection for packaged goods.



Post packaging use the product is encouraged to be composted as it breaks down easy and in addition adds nutrients into the soil.


(University of San Francisco , 2014) (Paradise Packaging, n.d.) (Flagel, 2020)



Week 3 Packaging Design blog


References

ADMIN. (2017, December 13). How to make bioplastic. Retrieved from Bio Plastics: http://bioplastics-future.eu/how-to-make-bioplastic/


Flagel, J. (2020, April 3). Mycelium: Using Mushrooms to Make Packaging Materials. Retrieved from MatMatch: https://matmatch.com/blog/mycelium-using-mushrooms-to-make-packaging-materials/#:~:text=Consumer%20preference%20%E2%80%93%20mycelium%20has%20an,seeking%20compostable%20or%20biodegradable%20products.


Flannigan, S. (2020, April 20). The big guide to sustainable packaging. Retrieved from Sendle : https://blog.sendle.com/sustainable-packaging-guide


Paradise Packaging. (n.d.). Compostable Custom moulded mycelium. Retrieved from Paradise Packaging: https://www.paradisepackaging.co/


University of San Francisco . (2014, May 8). Mushroom... The New Plastic? [news]. Retrieved from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRnJeNurdEY


WAKEN, A. (2018). BUILDING WITH BIODEGRADABLE PACKING PEANUTS. Retrieved from All for the boys: https://allfortheboys.com/building-with-biodegradable-packing-peanuts/

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