Reusable Plastic Buckets VS Single-Use Plastic Bags in Mushroom Production
During the last 2 months at NÃM, we have been thinking a lot about whether we should use reusable plastic buckets or single-use plastic bags to grow our sustainable mushrooms.
Your first reaction would be to use reusable plastic buckets, just like ours! However, we quickly discovered that things weren't actually that simple...
Let's look at the example of washing the dishes: Is it better for the environment to wash the dishes by hand or in the machine? Many of us would say by hand. However, the right answer is to use the machine because it uses water much more efficiently (not forgetting that the machine must be full, of course!).
Therefore, we should always try to choose the most efficient option. To use or not to use reusable plastic buckets to grow mushrooms - which will be more efficient? We discovered that the answer is not so linear.
Firstly, single-use bags are 20 times lighter than buckets, which means less plastic but also less energy consumption during production.
This also means that we have to use at least 20 times the same bucket to compensate, which corresponds to 3 years in the case of Oyster mushroom cultivation.
Secondly, to ensure a good and safe environment to grow our delicious mushrooms, we need to clean and disinfect the buckets. On average, we only use 5 liters of water to clean each bucket and another 5 liters to disinfect what pollutes the water due to the chemicals present in the detergent. On the contrary, single-use plastic bags do not require any cleaning or chemicals.
Last but not least, we distribute the fertilizer that results from mushroom cultivation across local farms. In the case of buckets, they must be emptied in order to reuse them. This means that another container is needed to store and transport the fertilizer that was previously in the bucket. Therefore, plastic bags have the advantage of serving as containers for storing and transporting fertilizer.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with plastic bags is that they are very difficult to recycle. Therefore, we must analyze the life cycle of products carefully.
If you want to find out more about our choice at NÃM, come visit our urban farm! ;)
From waste to taste
* It is important to mention that plastic is the only material suitable for growing mushrooms. Mushrooms are very sensitive to bacteria and fungi and therefore require a clean environment. Most commercially raised mushrooms (including Oyster mushrooms) decompose organic matter, making it difficult to use other organic materials for growing media.