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Are fungi roots the packaging and construction material of the future?

Jan Berbee and Victoria Neuhofer talked about alternative packaging materials.

Fungi transport information and nutrients between plants and trees, but they can do much more than this, as Jan Berbee, founder and proprietor of the Dutch company, told the Global DIY-Network. Speaking to Victoria Neuhofer, the founder of Damn Plastic, he explained how the root network of fungi can be used to produce packaging, construction materials and even furniture.
The so-called mycelium grows on all organic substrates and feeds on organic waste, said Berbee. It can therefore be described as a recycler or global cleaner. If the mycelium is no longer required, it can crumble and return to the soil, where it supplies the native plants with nutrients. It also functions as a natural adhesive and can be processed to form a very soft yet strong material.
To do this, a shape is first produced from hemp around which the fungus can grow. This takes between three and five days. It is then oven-dried for around two days. Although the company has a factory, customers are offered the option of producing their own mycelium packaging with the aid of a DIY kit. This is because the material can be cultivated in a cellar or office. Compared with using polystyrene, the transport requirement is thus eliminated. The product is recyclable, the "food" for the fungi can be obtained from regional sources and, as Berbee emphasised, no fossil raw materials such as oil need to be extracted from the ground.
Although this type of packaging is six to seven times more expensive than comparable polystyrene products at present, the entrepreneur expects the cost of alternatives to plastic to increase in the future. Moreover, the price difference is no longer as great when looking at the entire chain from production of the packaging to disposal, as in addition to the cost of recycling and transport, taxes are levied on waste in many countries.

|25 June 2021 | 11:26

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