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This week, we put a spotlight on plastic waste. On average, over 350 million metric tons of plastic are being produced worldwide every year, of which approximately 50% are single-use plastics.

Problem Statement: Out of the 350 million metric tons of plastic produced yearly, only a small percentage of it is recycled. The rest of it is most of the times incinerated or dumped in the landfill. The negative effect of plastic waste on the environment, as well as on the food we eat, has increased during the pandemic period, in which e-commerce, and therefore delivery became nearly a necessity.

Scope for Innovation: Packaging is the industry with the highest amount of plastic waste. Around 40% of the worldwide plastic production is used in packaging, and most of the times it is intended for single-use. To tackle this challenge, several startups are now working towards creating sustainable packaging alternatives. Many different solutions and materials such as biodegradable air peanuts, bubble-wrap from corrugated cardboard, bio-plastic, cornstarch, and seaweed have been involved to reduce the production and use of single use polystyrene and styrofoam, which are highly polluting materials typically used for packaging.

In this scenario, a mushroom or mycelium packaging represents an optimal way to create a circular economy, as plastic is substituted by a material created from organic waste. For this reason, a young group of Swiss students decided to exploit the huge possibilities given by mycelium to foster sustainable solutions in the packaging industry.

Our Solution of the Week, Mycrobez, was founded in 2019 by Mosas Pilscheur, Jonas Staub, and Moritz Schiller — to make an impact in the secondary and tertiary mass-market packaging industry. Their mushroom-based alternative is a bio-engineered form of hyphae that is made from agricultural waste mixed with mycelium root-like structures as binding agents. It can grow in any direction and thus assume different shapes. Specifically, this means that a negative shape dictates what the mushroom will look like in the end. When the mushroom has the desired shape, it goes into the oven. The fungus dies during the burning process, the growth process stops, and the mold hardens, creating a final styrofoam-like packaging product. Their first product CompoPack® is homecompostable, biodegradable in less than 90 days. It is lightweight, insulating, biodegradable and shock resistant. At the moment, the company is working on a production system that reduces the costs as much as possible in order to target the mass-market.