Unpacking the packaging potential of mycelium, the mushroom ‘roots’ of many uses

As almost anyone who exchanged gifts over the holiday season can attest, buying, selling, and shipping all of that stuff requires an awful lot of plastic packaging. Perhaps you even have some of those cartons and cases, and crinkly wrapping film still stashed around the house. Unfortunately, even if placed in the recycling bin, most of that single-use plastic will end up in a landfill.

Plastic waste is an ever-expanding problem, with approximately 380 million metric tons of new plastic added to the world every year. But what if there were an alternative material that could replace petroleum-based plastics? There is one possibility: mycelium, the white, root-like structure that grows beneath mushrooms.

Mycelium collects, stores, and sends information to other plants and trees via its branching networks under the forest floor. It performs a network function not unlike the internet, “an underground information highway that speeds up interactions between plants,” says Zhao Qin, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Syracuse University.

“Mycelium consists of massive branching thread-like hyphae, which is stretched and split into substrates,” mycologist Ajay Singh writes in his paper, “Development of Sustainable Myco-material from Fungi.”

Read more at thebulletin.org

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