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Earth Day Genius: Renewable Packaging Made of Mushrooms to Replace Styrofoam

Apr 22, 2016 04:10 AM EDT

As the world celebrates Earth Day 2016, scientists and researchers are developing new ways to save the environment. One example of that is the packaging made to replace Polystyrene, popularly known as Styrofoam. The alternative material is made up entirely of mushrooms and is completely biodegradable.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, a total of 299 million tons of plastic wastes were produced in the year 2013. This data includes polystyrene or what we know today as Styrofoam. These are mainly used as packaging for fragile items, toys, electronics or even food when shipping. But Styrofoam is lethal to the environment.

The Earth Resource Foundation said these non-biodegradable materials are extremely hazardous to man's health and the environment. They said the Styrene found in Styrofoam is what makes it harmful. Exposure to styrene can cause "irritation of the skin, eyes, upper respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal problems," while extreme or chronic exposure to the substance can lead to more serious conditions such as, "depression, headache, fatigue, and weakness and kidney problems."

That's why there are a lot of groups who have been lobbying for years to ban Styrofoam. But because of its great insulation properties, and possibly due to lack of alternatives, the use of Styrofoam is continuously practiced until today. But that is about to change.

Ecovative developed a technology which turns mushrooms into Styrofoam-like packaging, in order to eliminate the use of the more traditional yet hazardous substance. The company prides itself as one of the pioneers in making biomaterials and environmentally-friendly products.

They recently introduced mushroom packaging called Myco Foam into the market. It is designed to mimic how Styrofoam protects fragile items for shipping, at the same time being environmentally safe. Consumers can toss mushroom packaging into their backyards and it will decompose by itself when exposed to sunlight and microorganisms.

To create the mushroom packaging, Ecovative uses mushroom wastes and roots. They undergo a special process to give them Styrofoam-like properties. Aside from packaging, the product can also be used as insulation material.

The company have had a good number of followers who are currently using their environment-friendly mushroom packaging in their business. Dell, for example, now uses Myco Foam packaging when shipping its computers and electronics.

With the patronage of big companies like Dell, mushroom packaging is more likely to make it big not just because of their promise of replacing Styrofoam in terms of function, but also because using it is beneficial to both the consumers' health and the environment.

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