Canterbury mushroom company leading the charge in sustainable packaging

As many Kiwi business look at ways to reduce their emissions and move to a more eco-friendly way of production, Canterbury based company Meadow Mushrooms is leading the charge in sustainable packaging.

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Meadow Mushrooms is turning tonnes of unwanted stalks into punnets. Source: 1 NEWS

The chairperson of the Meadow Mushrooms board Miranda Burdon says the company produces 200 tonnes of mushrooms every week at their Christchurch harvesting plant, or about 4.5 million.

"We trim the stalks off every one of them, they’re all hand harvested and that left us with about 50 tonnes of organic waste," Ms Burdon told 1 NEWS. "Currently, that's going into landfill and we wanted to find a more constructive use." 

So in a world first, it teamed up with the Biopolymer Network to turn the stalks into punnets.

"At the moment, we're trialling different methodologies - so a flat product that creates a bag or a moulded product," she said. 

"It’s quite a complex process, as you can tell after three years, but it’s going well. We’re really optimistic. We think this is a goer - we know the product works, we now have to figure out how we can scale it properly."

The Ministry of Environment's set up a waste minimisation fund that could enable the packaging to be used by other companies in the produce industry as well.

"You see a lot of plastic packaging or a lot of other packaging in the market often its soggy and lost its shape - that damages the mushrooms because it causes the water to build up.

"Mushrooms continue to breathe once they’re harvested and they lose water, so to deal with packaging - that deal with that water loss - and actually manage it is really important."

Meadow Mushrooms is continuously looking at ways to be more sustainable and cut emissions, she said.

"The punnet is modelled off our current format that works really well to protect mushrooms," she explained.

"They have no skin and damage very easily, so we're putting a lot of work into how we can protect our mushrooms and doing a lot of work around soft plastics and the film we put over the top."

The comnpany has set its sights high.

"We would like to be one of the first, if not the first large food producer to be carbon neutral in New Zealand," Ms Burdon said.

If the trial process is successful, the planet friendly punnets are expected to go on shelves next year.

By Maddy Lloyd