Will mycelium be a perfect alternative of platics?

These fibrous networks do not take long to grow. They appear in a few hours and able to form layers of fibrous networks in a few days, and are fully formed in a week. During the stage of growth, the mycelium can be put into moulds to produce products or special packaging. Since the mycelium feeds on agricultural waste, the end product is a complex of the mycelium and digested natural material. The final step in production is to heat the mycelium and treat it to make it inert, thus eliminating the possibility of the product starting to grow mushrooms or releasing irritating spores. 

Mycelium can grow into specific forms by regulating temperature, carbon dioxide exposure, humidity, and airflow. Mycelium packaging is not only elastic, insulated, safe, breathable and waterproof, but also biodegrades after just 60 days in the soil. By comparison, it takes 450 years to break down a piece of plastic. These all use 90 percent less energy than plastic and produce 90 percent less carbon dioxide equivalents. In fact, fungi help store and capture carbon in nature. Furthermore, there are already flame retardant and weather-resistant mycelium products on the market. 

The possibilities for mycelium seem endless: from textiles to building materials and packaging to food, wound dressings and water filters, mycelium could transform many industries and make them more environmentally friendly. 

mycelium packaging protective angle corner 2

As a building material, for example, mycelium performs better in sound and heat insulation. But it doesn’t last as long as most building materials and can’t withstand as much pressure. Concrete can withstand up to 10,000 pounds per square inch, whereas mycelium can only withstand 30 pounds per square inch, so it’s more used for wall decorations. 

Not only does mycelium reduce our impact on the environment, it also makes the process of producing it more humane. Its tissue-like growth means that mycelium can be used as a substitute for leather and meat, mimicking the texture of these products without the bloodshed and heavy land use that comes with raising livestock. Major brands such as Adidas, Lululemon and the parent company of luxury stores such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Hermes have already started working with mycelium producers to launch new fungus-based leather products. 

In the packaging space, furniture giant Ikea plans to move all of its styrofoam packaging to mycelium foam, while tech firm Dell is also looking to do the same. Although most mycelium products are currently more expensive to produce than plastic, mycelium foam is already more cost-competitive than regular styrofoam. Future scale and investor support could significantly reduce the price of mycelium. Once the price comes down, this powerful biotechnology will revolutionize our world for the better. It has the potential to improve what we eat, what we wear and what we produce. 

After all, finding alternatives to plastic is not an elective course, but a compulsory one that must be on the agenda. At present, plastic restriction laws are being signed and implemented worldwide. Alternatives such as mycelium are bound to become a huge global market.