Tucked behind the river Mole in Esher, Surrey, is just one of the Magical Mushroom Company factories, and they’re are on a mission to disrupt the entire packaging industry. Their goal is to replace expanded polystyrene with a sustainable alternative that biodegrades in 45 days, the secret ingredient of which is mycelium - the root-like system of mushrooms.

Having already worked with Adidas, Seedlip, LUSH, Selfridges and more, Magical Mushroom Company are getting closer to reaching this goal. They’ve found exciting new applications in the form of Christmas decorations, manmade beehives and bodyboards.

Using this material is what Ben, head of prototyping, describes as a ‘no brainer switch’. It certainly was for us, with its intriguingly cotton-like texture, this material speaks to the luxury and quality of MONC frames whilst being an entirely zero-waste packaging alternative.

A few weeks ago we visited Ben at the Magical Mushroom factory, which is kept at a cosy 24°C for ideal mycelium growing conditions. We got to see some of the other prototypes he’s been working on and got a detailed demonstration of how our MONC boxes are made.

Using a combination of agricultural waste substrate - hemp, flour and a particular spore of fungi, the first step is to create the substrate mixture, which involves a thorough amount of crumbling and sifting. It is then placed into moulds and left for 4 days where the fungi spores will begin to ‘eat’ the substrate. This often creates a beautiful web of hyphae - the roots of mycelium, that stretch out of the moulds in a constant search for new environments.

As the mycelium grows through it, the substrate becomes more and more solid, at which point the boxes can then be ‘popped’ out of the mould. Next comes the most satisfying part, where they are left to ‘overgrow’ for two days, giving them this delightful marshmallow-y feel.

Finally they are baked to prevent any further growth, but this isn’t the end of a MONC box’s lifecycle. Once broken into pieces and buried in soil or your compost bin, this packing will biodegrade within 45 days. From the earth to the earth. Our boxes are just one example of the infinite possibilities that this magical material can create, all thanks to Magical Mushroom company.