Direct From Dell: Mushrooms, Wheatgrass, and Cow Farts
Desktop and laptop computers are major investments, so the last thing anyone wants is to receive one that was damaged in the box. Computers are protected by plenty of packaging, giving rise to sustainability concerns, but Dell is incorporating natural materials into its packaging that can protect its products in an environmentally friendly way.
In an October article on Geek.com, Matthew Humphries details some of the innovative materials Dell is using to make its packaging more easily recyclable. Among them are mycelium, which comes from the root system of mushrooms, wheatgrass (a byproduct of wheat production), and AirCarbon, a plastic made by extracting carbon from methane, a gas produced, from, well…cow farts.
Mycelium can easily be acquired from mushroom farms because there is no other use for the roots.
“The mycelium is placed into a mold and mushroom spawn added,” Humphries explains. “There’s enough food (carbs and sugars) left in the mycelium for the spawn to grow, fill the mold, and produce protective packaging that looks very much like polystyrene, but feels like mushroom skin.”
While mycelium provides a sustainable packaging method, a related article from BBC News explains that mycelium is also an exceptionally durable material for package applications.
“Not only is it completely biodegradable and compostable,” writes Technology of Business Reporter Fiona Graham, “It appears to be even more durable and flexible than the man-made alternative. And it’s also flame retardant.”
Wheatgrass is another product of little interest to farmers. According to the Geek.com story, Dell gets theirs from YPFJupiter, a company that pays farmers for the product. It’s a win for farmers who would otherwise dispose of the wheatgrass by burning it. The final product is biodegradable and Dell claims there’s more than enough wheatgrass available to fulfill packaging needs.
And Cow Farts
AirCarbon, the packaging plastic made using methane, requires a bit more of a peculiar process to obtain. Graham’s BBC article explains that methane can be extracted from cattle farms, as it is produced from flatulent cows. “The methane is grabbed before it enters the atmosphere, so it actually removes greenhouse gases from the environment,” Graham writes. Carbon is then taken from the methane to produce the packaging material. The procedure not only avoids the use of fossil fuels, but provides another benefit to the environment.
According to Dell’s website, it is the first IT company to use AirCarbon and it will play an instrumental role in the company’s 2020 Legacy of Good Plan, which aims to have a packaging profile that is completely sustainably sourced and entirely recyclable or compostable.