Can Mushroom Packaging Help The Environment? ♻️ Podcast Ep. 27 Don’t Be A Waster 



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Transcript: Can Mushroom Packaging Help The Environment?


Hello and welcome back to an edition the first in quite a long time! In roughly two months of, uh, that… the best recycling podcast, if I do say so myself. Um… Recycle: Don’t be a Waster. Firstly, we haven’t been recording for a couple of months due to different things. I was overseas and, uh… you know, caught up with some other things, but great to be back, uh… updating you with the latest recycling news. One of the things, I suppose, one of the problems maybe I talk about, problems too much but one of the things I often think when I see replacements for plastic.


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So one of the big movements or trends you’ll see in global packaging is new, more environmentally friendly, more organic, you know, plant-based or something, you know, more organic materials being used for packaging, whereas up to recently, we’ve been relying on petrochemicals to make plastics. And obviously, plastics have a huge number of negative impacts on the environment. So when I see replacements for these, I often, you know, made from cane sugar or paper, or other aspects, I often think there is going to be a negative in the utility of that product were, the shelf life, whether how it feels to use it, you know.


Call me old-fashioned but using a paper straw isn’t as good as using a plastic straw you know because the paper straw will soften it will get a bit mushy so clearly, there are. Let’s be honest, the reason plastic is ubiquitous and so popular as a packaging material is because of its great features, um… ignoring the environmental aspect but its great features are durable you can colour it any way you like it’s tasteless.


It… you know, it does have health benefits also we’ve covered in previous podcasts but when you’re using the products it doesn’t really have that and so when I see you know I like to really believe that these new packaging materials will change the world but I can often see there are little negatives so that’s negative but the positive is you know I think we’re going to talk today about mushroom-based packaging.


Act 2: Can mushroom packaging help the environment?


And the great thing about that is it’s targeting a material which, I personally think, those negatives we’ve mentioned such as going mushy or you know that aspect. It won’t really be as big of an issue so, what is this product we’re talking about, um… if you know some members of my family love internet shopping and you get packaging through the post. And whether it’s furniture, whether it’s electronic products any consumer items nearly always come in a cardboard box and quite often inside that carbon box there will be expanded polystyrene or Styrofoam.


I think Styrofoam’s a brand name for polystyrene there could be slight differences in the chemical makeup but to all intents and purposes for our usage here, Styrofoam expanded polystyrene. They are sort of the same thing and when I’m talking about this you know what I’m talking about it’s the very light but sort of rigid it can be rigid or it can be softer but it’s often rigid and it’s um white um plastic almost inflated up and it’s um it can sometimes crumble as well.


It quite often will crumble if you rub your hand on it, which obviously leads to pollution and microplastics and all that bad stuff. So, but… that’s generally what Styrofoam or polystyrene expanded polystyrene is used for And, um… the beauty of what we’re talking about: mushroom packaging. Mushroom packaging or mushroom-based packaging is designed to target this market. It’s designed to do exactly what Styrofoam polished expanded polystyrene does, which is provide, you know, neutral packaging material to absorb bumps and bruises.


Act 3: Can mushroom packaging help the environment?


Um… you know, it’s a low-grade plastic. It’s not going to be used for enveloping, you know, drinks, containers or that sort of stuff so, the… that usability aspect to it… to it… will not be that important, and it will be nearly always kept dry as long, as you know, I think we’ve all had a packaging delivered or sometimes, it might get a bit wet.


So that would probably create an issue. But let’s assume a perfect world where your packaging doesn’t get wet it arrives at your house and this material looks and feels like traditional Styrofoam or expanded polystyrene so what is what actually is mushroom-based packaging. So my understanding is that it is developed from an aspect of the mushroom a standard mushroom I believe and there’s a company there’s a number of companies involved in this and it’s receiving quite a bit of investment funding from investment houses.


Um… the first one I can see is the 2006 equivalent of design LLC uh started developing a product to replace Styrofoam made from mushrooms another UK-based company with the great name magical mushroom company which might insinuate other things for people of a certain age. They developed their mushroom packaging by combining two components mycelium which is the root structure of a mushroom that has a natural polymer called chitin and agricultural waste.


Just reading the specs here, it was specifically created to replace fossil fuel-based packaging such as expanded polystyrene eps polyethylene foam extruded polystyrene XPS foam and packaging inserts so you can really see the benefits of it you can see that it’s there’s clearly a large market for this and if this product will break down naturally, it’s a huge win, um… in, obviously, wasted.


Act 4: Can mushroom packaging help the environment?


We focus on waste and recycling, and expanded polystyrene is generally not recycled. And as a rule in Australia, it very rarely will be recycled due to there not being a collection service available. People, it tends to go in general waste. It clearly is… it’s flammable, so it can be used for incineration and it will be used in that context to generate electricity in certain areas.


But a very large percentage of this product currently ends up in landfill and obviously, a certain percentage of it too ends up in our waterways as you as if you’ve ever tried to put the polish iron into a bin even at your house you’ll be aware that it crumbles and parts of it drop off the little small pieces.


So if we can get away from this it’s a huge benefit the specs for this material that I… I’m reading are that it can uh it can last if kept dry for up to 30 years it’s 30 years of shelf life in dry conditions and it can biodegrade and break down into its component you know I suppose the mushroom organics in the shortest 45 days so huge benefits very few seeming negatives and this is one that I can see is a, as a win-win.


Um… major corporations are getting involved with it and I’ve seen that Ikea and people like that are trying to push it for their packaging and even move towards it to be uh to almost completely displace traditional expanded stuff from their packaging so I think that’s something we should fully support um you know hopefully it will take off and I’d love to see.


Yeah, I’d love it to see it take 100 of the market because just the sheer volume of expanded polystyrene going into landfill every year I don’t know what the capacity is but it must be huge so we leave it there today it’s uh it’s a nice good news story I hope you know investment phones get behind it I… you know, when we’re seeing a lot of uh banning on these plastics that have come in in many Australian states on July 1 this year you know I think maybe down the line expand a polish diary and hopefully, they’ll be phased out too so we are moving in the right direction in many ways and um I think we just got to keep going as the old saying um what a church will say if you’re going through hell keep going we’re not going through hell by any means but we’re moving hopefully in some ways we are moving in the right direction so we’ll leave it there today.


And yeah, Recycle: don’t be a Waster!


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