IKEA is Using Packaging Made out of Mushrooms

@TrueActivist

One of the largest furniture brands in the world has made it their mission to cut down on packaging waste. I had written a post several weeks ago about IKEA – and my love for the company as a whole – and it makes me so happy to see this. Now, the article I had found was from about 6 months ago, and I haven’t been to an actual store of theirs in that time frame. So I can’t back up my findings just yet. But let me get to it: packaging made of mushrooms.

Sounds kind of freaky. But also really really cool. The process goes something like this:

agricultural byproducts such as husk, oat hulls and cotton burrs, are pressed into a desired shape that can fit around items to be packaged. Then, it is seeded with mushroom spores that sprout mycelium (a root structure) after a few days. The mycelium threads rapidly through the structure and binds it together to form a shock-resistant and durable packaging material. The last step is to heat-treat the material to kill spores in order to arrest further growth of the fungus.

Medium

I recently posted about different plastic and their processes. So as someone who knows the basics on that, I find it extremely fascinating reading the above information. I can imagine this might take a lot longer to make (who knows how rapidly mushroom spores actually grow; I’ll have to research that another time) than a typical injection molded piece. But as an alternative to styrofoam – which is ungodly terrible for the environment – it’s a huge step in the right direction.

As a small tangent, if you’re interested in learning about a young boy who recently invented a way to recycle styrofoam, then watch this short TED talk! Super cool.

So, besides the biodegradable factor, what are the benefits to mushroom packaging? Here’s a few Medium listed:

  • It uses only 12% of the energy used in plastic production.
  • It produces 90% less carbon emissions than produced during plastic manufacture.
  • The total amount of carbon dioxide component in atmosphere remains almost undisturbed by growing fungi-based packaging. Fungi uses up carbon dioxide that gets incorporated into the packaging material. On disposal, packaging material gets decomposed or composted and returns the carbon dioxide back into the soil.
  • It decomposes with 30–90 days. Even if it is ingested by organisms, it has no dangerous side effects, although it has no nutritional benefits either.
  • Alternative packaging is a lucrative economic avenue. The global market for sustainable packaging is poised to reach more than US $142 billion in coming years. Presently, bio-plastics and green materials just constitute 1% of total packaging market share, so there is immense growth potential for manufacturers in this segment.
  • Rural communities can benefit financially by supplying agricultural wastes to mycelium manufacturers.

Hopefully this becomes a lot more accessible to companies worldwide. As IKEA sets the new standard for packaging, I’m curious to see what comes next!

The Loop: Recyclable Tennis Shoes

@adidas

The most recent shoe release from adidas sports a brand new cyclical business model. Their 4 step process (shown above) takes old shoes that are sent back from consumers to 1) be cleaned, 2) ground up, 3) melted down, and then 4) reformed.

Plastic is extremely hard to recycle. For those that aren’t familiar with plastic processing, there are two distinct types: thermoset and thermoplastic. The basic information you need to know is that thermoplastics can be melted and reformed, whereas thermosets (hence the name) remain set in a physical state (aka no melting, they just burn). So although most companies have a great ambition to fully recycle, it’s extremely difficult to do so.

Even within the thermoplastics range, you have multiple forms. If you’ve never looked at the bottom of a plastic part, go to your kitchen cupboard and pick a piece of tupperware up. Within the recycle symbol stamped in the bottom, there is a number. Those numbers range from one to seven. Look at this website if you want to see the distinct breakdowns for those sections.

Because each plastic is typically pretty unique in composition, remelting and reprocessing is very tedious and costly. Adidas has figured out a pure plastic process that can be optimized to reduce waste and take full advantage of the benefits of a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). According to their webpage for the launch (check it out here), they state over 91% of plastic throughout the world is not recycled. I’m not surprised. As someone who has been around plastics more than the average person (hi dad), I’m well aware of how much effort and time it takes.

So, for adidas – especially as a company as large and global as it is – to promise recyclability within its own structure, I think it’s a great initiative. Here’s a wonderful video showcasing the process of it all. Quite honestly, this completely blows my mind. A wonderful design and a monumental shift in changing the way we consume.

Trash Eating “Shark”

Drones have – for the most part – been partitioned to the sky. But drone-like robots have been existing and thriving on land (and in water) for years. Insert RanMarine’s WasteShark. This drone is like a roomba for the water.

It sucks up garbage in marina areas in Dubai and several European countries at the moment. Take a look at the video below for more details!

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

I strolled through the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) museum this morning and came across a larger-than-life piece by El Anatsui in the Great Hall (photos above). From afar, it seems average. But when viewed up close, you can see the individual pieces, and it takes on a whole new form.

The description states that each molecule of the art was made from reclaimed aluminum liquor bottle caps. It reminded me of an artist from a film I watched a few years ago. His name is Vik Muniz, and he uses garbage collected from the infamous Jardim Gramacho dump site in Brazil to create unbelievably life-like and beautiful portraits:

Image result for vik muniz wasteland
@vik.muniz

I find large installation pieces fascinating to begin with – the majority of my work tends to be confined to smaller sketch pages – so the overwhelming stature of a work like this is particularly captivating. The attention to detail is fantastic, but it also speaks to a lot of comprehensive movement and fluidity.

As I was standing there (moving to and fro, close and far from the art) every single person who walked by was pulled in. The gravitational force of a piece like this is monumental. Even if someone wasn’t initially interested by the form, the description of the work (or physical closer inspection by that individual) tends to fully grasp them. Thinking of the shear volume of bottle caps someone would have to collect to even begin to create a work, is in itself, a feat. Not to mention the commentary it transcribes.

I would love to go into a deep dive on sustainable art in the near future. However, seeing something like this in person really does make a huge difference. After today, I’ll have to make a point of viewing (especially composed and intricate pieces like this) in person.