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Monday, October 17, 2011

Innovative Packaging

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

It is always interesting to see new innovative ways to use waste products. Dell announced the beginning of a pilot for mushroom based packaging. The mushroom cushioning is unique because it is grown and not manufactured in the traditional sense. Packaging products are created by growing mushroom fibers on waste like cotton seed, wood fiber and buckwheat hulls. Waste products are placed in a mold which is then inoculated with mushroom spawn. Cushions take 5 - 10 days to grow as the spawn, which become the root structure - or by the scientific name, mycelium - of the mushroom.

All the energy needed to form the cushion is supplied by the carbohydrates and sugars in the agricultural waste. Once the material has grown into the shape, it is heat treated to stop the growth, and the packaging is done. There's no need for energy in the process and manufacturers estimate it takes 98% less energy to create mushroom based packaging than Styrofoam. Now you know why there has been such interest in mushroom packaging. Dell plans to eliminate about 20 million pounds of packaging material from their shipments by the end of 2012. The organic based mushroom cushions are easily composted after use.

Floridians throw away about 8 pounds of garbage per person each day, double the national average. There are a number of ways to tackle the problem of garbage. One way starts with you and the products you buy. You can shop with the environment in mind. Try to buy products that:

  • make the best use of energy resources
  • don't pollute our air and water
  • are reusable or recyclable
  • are made from plentiful resources or from recycled material
  • use a minimum of materials in design and packaging


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