Mushrooms used to wrap Dell desktop computers

19 June 2013

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19 June 2013 | Marino Donati

Computer firm Dell has pledged to cut waste from all of its packaging by 2020.

It plans to source all its wrapping from sustainable materials and ensure it is recyclable and/or compostable at the end of its life.

More than half of its packaging currently meets both criteria. It already uses bamboo and mushrooms as alternatives to foam for some of its wrapping, which are recyclable or compostable. In the case of mushrooms, cotton hulls, rice hulls or wheat chaff are placed in a mold and injected with mushroom spawn. Five to 10 days later, the mushroom root structure completes its growth, having utilised the energy inherent in the agricultural waste. The final product looks and acts like Styrofoam but is organic, biodegradable and can be used as compost or mulch, which makes for easier and more environmental-friendly disposal.

It will also start using agricultural waste to create sustainable packaging to help hit the target. Wheat straw will be used for cardboard boxes for computer notebooks from China. From August, boxes will initially be 15 per cent wheat straw, with the rest made from recycled fibre. Dell said the initiative would help reduce air pollution in China where many farmers burn wheat straw for disposal.

Last year, Dell reduced the size of its packaging by more than 12 per cent, increased the recycled and renewable content to 40 per cent, with 75 per cent of packaging recyclable at kerbside. 

Dell director of packaging procurement Oliver Campbell said: “Packaging is often the first part of our products that customers see and touch. From that first interaction, we want to ensure our customers know we’re dedicated to operating in an environmentally responsible manner and we want to make it easier for them to be sustainable as well."

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