One of my favorite pastimes is to discover innovation in the sustainability world. I recently came across Ecovative Design, a company that is creating plant-based meat, biodegradable packaging, and leather-like textiles. Those are such a diverse range of products that I decided to look deeper into what they are doing. For this week, I will be reviewing their mushroom packaging, since sustainable packaging is the focal point of my overall work.
Ecovative’s focus is to substitute polypropylene, polyethylene and polyurethane foams, which take many years to degrade. In contrast, Ecovative’s product can be composted in less than a year, and even less than 2 months if it is disposed of in the soil (they actually don’t need an industrial composting facility to break down!).
Mushroom® Packaging is made with 2 ingredients: hemp hurds and mycelium. According to the website, it is cost-competitive, thermally insulating, and water-resistant. It will compost in 45 days after being added to the soil or in 180 days in a marine environment. It has also been certified 100% Biobased and Cradle to Cradle Gold, among other certifications.
Since they don’t mention where they source the hemp hurds or if they have any standards for their suppliers I couldn’t give them a 3/3.
This packaging is “grown, not manufactured.” This is the 5 step process:
“1 | Our designers generate a 3D model of your Mushroom® Packaging insert and route a positive using a CNC machine.
2 | We thermoform the positive to make growth trays — which are reused numerous times.
3 | The trays are filled with our hemp hurd and mycelium blend which grow for 4 days.
4 | The grown parts are removed from the tray and continue to grow for 2 more days to create a velvety layer of overgrowth.
5 | The parts are dried to disable future growth. The Mushroom® Packaging is ready to protect your product in shipment”
They don’t mention anything about work conditions (i.e. minimum wages, maximum working hours, diversity policies, etc), so I would like to see more transparency in that area. I think it is also important to display their environmental/carbon footprint (a summary of an LCA assessment would be nice), especially in comparison to the oil-derived foams they are replacing.
On their “team” page, the company displays their values and say they are a “diverse group of engineers, biologists, artists and designers — dedicated to the development of high-performance, environmentally conscious materials.” One interesting remark I would like to make is that out of 7 people in the board of directors there is only one woman among white men, making females less than 15% of their higher management. They have pictures of their staff, so one can see that the rest of the team is a little more diverse, but there is still room for improvement.
Ecovative sells MycoComposite license for entrepreneurs who would like to manufacture packaging or “are interested in a field of use outside of packaging, such as architectural elements, building construction materials, acoustics, etc.” They claim their “business is currently supported by a robust raw material supply chain in North America and Europe”, but they don’t mention any standards they require from their raw-material suppliers.
On the website we can find the licensees in each region from which to order the packaging. In the US it is Paradise Packaging Co, who also partners with Grown bio, a company with the same aim to make custom packaging out of mycelium. (Grown bio actually claims their materials have a negative CO2 footprint, something I didn’t see on Ecovative’s website).
Some of their past and present partners include Dell and IKEA, and they have customers such as Keap, Aplos, Shrine, Our Treaty, and more.