Earth Issues

Say goodbye to Styrofoam

 | November 22, 2010

We all love electronics, but do you ever think about the packaging they come with?

Packaging products like Styrofoam add a huge burden on the environment, but thanks to new innovation and better corporate environmental policies wasteful packaging will become a thing of the past.

Many have heard countless studies about the amount of time it takes to break down Styrofoam, hundreds to thousands of years, and it never fully decomposes. Instead it turns into tiny plastic pebbles which end up in our water systems and inadvertently into the mouths and stomachs of birds and fish.

While Henry Lau, media relations advisor for Environment Canada claims that polystyrene, the material that composes Styrofoam, represents less than one per cent of the waste stream by weight, the fact that it’s not compostable and therefore just continues to take up space and harm wildlife makes it a matter for environmental concern.

Companies, like Ecovative Design from Green Island, New York are taking the initiative in battling one-time-use plastics. Their new product, Mycobond, is a compostable Styrofoam-like product made from mushroom roots and seed husks.

Sam Harrington, marketing and communications manager for Ecovative, believes Mycobond will revolutionize the packaging products industry, and more.

“This [Mycobond] is a way to quickly grow performance materials to replace unsustainable synthetic plastics and foams,” he says. “We expect our materials to replace plastic and foams in applications from surfboards to car parts to furniture.”

A surfboard made from mushroom roots and seed husks? For a sport that claims to be one with the earth it’s about time they found something a little earthier to manufacture their equipment out of.

Mycobond is made entirely from waste product. The materials are baked to form a Styrofoam-like material and then shaped for packaging. Once received, they can be broken up and tossed right into your compost, or thrown out where they’ll quickly decompose. The organic materials add nutrition to garden soils.

Currently Ecovative is manufacturing EcoCradle, the packaging material, and Greensulate, made out of the same material but used in replacement of traditional home insulation. Both materials are completely dry and free of allergens.

Dell, a popular electronics manufacturer, is also taking a green step forward when it comes to packaging materials. All Dell products are shipped using compostable bamboo packaging.

Bamboo grows fast, up to 100 centimetres per day, and is an environmentally sustainable product that’s seen a lot of interest in manufacturing everything from flooring to clothing, even snowboards!

Michelle Mosmeyer, a member of Dell’s sustainability team, explains that the bamboo used for Dell’s packaging is processed in an environmentally sound way.

“We make it by mechanically, not chemically, pulping FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified bamboo fibres and then moulding them into our packaging cushions,” she says, adding that when “placed in a hot, active compost pile it will decompose at the same rate as any other organic material.”

The next time you order a new computer or cellphone, consider what it’s coming in. If more people support environmentally friendly companies, then more companies will become more environmentally friendly—the law of supply and demand. Think: your new shipment of office supplies could also feed your garden!

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