The Direct2Dell blog has let it be known that Dell is launching a pilot to test the use of mushroom-based packaging.
The blog describes it as advanced biotechnology, and it’s sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, the EPA, and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). It’s a way to use agricultural waste products to replace styrofoam and polyethylene in packaging materials and it has apparently passed lab tests with flying colours.
Basically the mushroom cushioning is grown by inoculating waste product like cotton hulls with mushroom spawn. Using the carbohydrates and sugars in the agricultural waste, the cushions take 5 - 10 days to grow. Because they’re organic, they can even be composted after use.
The initial pilot shipments will be for the PowerEdge R710 server multipack, which already saves materials by fitting four systems in one box.
You may think it’s all a bit gimmicky, but it’s part of a long-term sustainable packaging strategy that Dell initially announced back in December 2008. Mushrooms are not the only organic material that has been used, either. The company is already using bamboo packaging for notebooks and smartphones and half the Inspiron line of consumer laptops is shipped in bamboo-based packaging. The mushroom cushions are better suited to heavier products like servers and desktops.
Dell’s sustainable packaging strategy aims to eliminate 20 million pounds of computer packaging by the end of 2012, which when it was announced represented a saving of $8m as well as helping preserve more than 150,000 trees. The plan includes reducing desktop and laptop packaging materials by 10% worldwide, increasing sustainable content in cushioning and corrugated packaging by 40% and ensuring that 75% of packaging is recyclable through curbside collections by 2012.
It’ll be interesting to see if they make the targets – I’ll keep you posted - but the company certainly seems to be serious in the attempt. Just the endeavour will be enough to tick some boxes for customers struggling with their own green ICT strategies.