Also known as styrofoam, polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic that has a devastating impact on the environment. Not only is polystyrene believed to be a human carcinogen, but it is completely non-biodegradable, and is now considered to be the main component of marine debris. In addition to this, the manufacturing of polystyrene leads to the release of waste containing harmful chemicals, while food contained in polystyrene has these chemicals leached into it. While the material may have first gained popularity due to the way in which it is lightweight and has effective insulation properties, there are a number of eco-friendly alternatives to polystyrene, which not only work just as well, but are much safer for both humans as well as the environment.
Mushroom packaging is grown from fungus, which digests agricultural by-products and binds them together, creating a completely natural and non-toxic structural material. Not only is mushroom packaging completely biodegradable, but it also has a number of different applications, and could soon easily replace polystyrene and plastic across a wide range of industries.
Other Compostable Containers
In addition to the mushroom packaging, there are a number of other compostable containers available that are a fantastic alternative to polystyrene. From disposable plates made of corn starch, biodegradable cups and utensils made from peat, and take-out boxes made from recycled plants and wood fibre, there are now many different options out there, giving individuals and businesses no excuse to immediately turn to polystyrene. More than 90% of the polystyrene lying in the landfills of New York comes from food containers, and the need for change is now more urgent than ever.
While naturally biodegradable packaging is great, it still ends up in a landfill, and avoiding this altogether is much more eco-friendly in the long run. Many major cities around the world have been launching initiatives when it comes to reusable containers and mugs, and these areas have witnessed significant decreases in the amount of polystyrene that ends up in landfills. From high-quality plastics to ceramics to stainless steel, the reusable containers can be made from a number of different materials, depending on what their purpose needs to be.
While edible containers may be more of a luxury product, the concept is one that could revolutionize the way in which mass market food is packaged in the future. From an edible gelatinous skin that protects a product, to edible cups in a variety of flavors to replace those dreaded disposable cups at parties and offices, to baked goods served in an edible bread box, the innovations in this area are only just beginning, and edible containers could soon become an exciting part of our future.
As the harmful effects of polystyrene become more and more acknowledged, countries all over the world are beginning to ban the material. From New York to Paris, the changes are already in effect, making it even more important to begin to look into eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives, doing your part to help to clear the heaving landfills.