Sustainable packaging is a huge focus for designer students like me because it involves saving the land, we inhabit using our creativity. In fact, my project objective for this semester is to re-design gratuitously packaged products that overuse plastic and other materials that take centuries to decompose. The packaging I decided to replace/ redesign were drink packaging, such as, the 6-ring plastics that holds cans of drinks together. Even though, this piece of plastic makes up a small portion of plastic waste in the ocean, it still poses a choking threat to marine life, such as, turtles and must be eradicated today.

I began to research about edible, bacteria-based, soy-based, cellulose-based plastics as a replacement for traditional plastic used in most, if not, all products sold on shelves. However, my research concluded that these plastics leave nothing suitable for recycling. Therefore, I began to research about seaweed as a potential bio plastic. This plastic is more expensive than plastic, but 40 tons of dry seaweed can absorb 20.7 tons of CO2 emissions. But even with that information, it still is not the answer. That is when I began to explore what Coral Reefs need, in order, to survive and that includes water, sunlight and Zooxanthellae. I thought maybe these plastics can be infused with Zooxanthellae for Coral reefs to ingest and thrive from, yet too much can throw off the balance of the eco-system which is the opposite of what we are aiming for. Is there a better way to package these drinks without the use of the 6-ring plastics?

That is when I came across Mycelium packaging; Packaging that you can grow! Mycelium is part of the fungi kingdom and is the network of threads, called hyphae, from which mushrooms grow. It is a living material that can bind together to create any custom, moldable shape. Using this material as a form of packaging is truly sustainable because it can be recycled directly in and by nature. This type of packaging contributes to “up-cycling” by providing new value to agricultural waste. On the same note, Mycoremediation, sometimes referred to as fungi remediation or mushroom remediation, is a form of bioremediation that uses fungi instead of bacteria to break down waste which is REVOLUTIONARY and shall be incorporated in all types of packaging by 2030 or earlier. This material is so versatile, that it can even be used to make furniture and other building materials.

Humans produced over 8,000 million metric tons of plastic to date which is 25,000 times the weight of the Empire State building. Sadly, 79% of that plastic ends up in the Ocean. Therefore, replacing plastic packaging with Mushroom packaging can potentially reverse the effect of plastic waste polluting the Ocean and harming marine life. Humanity has the potential to restore the depths of the Ocean by using this material as the standard way of packaging products. Replacing plastic with Mycelium-grown packaging is one small change by man, one huge impact for mother earth.

Essay by: Emily Gaona
Texas State University