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Dell to Ship Servers in Mushroom-Based Packaging

<p>Dell looks to nature for new packaging options.</p>

 Dell will branch out into new packaging materials when it starts shipping servers protected by mushroom cushions instead of foam.

At the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference and the Direct2Dell blog, Dell said it will be the first technology company to test out mushroom-based packaging made by Ecovative Design.

"We've tested the mushroom cushioning extensively in the lab to ensure it meets our same high standards to safely protect our products during shipment - and it passed like a champ," Oliver Campbell, Dell's senior packaging manager, wrote in a blog post.

Ecovative makes the packaging by taking waste like cotton seed or wood fiber, and adding mushroom roots, which digest the waste and take its shape in a mold. "All the energy needed to form the cushion is supplied by the carbohydrates and sugars in the ag waste," Campbell wrote.

The packaging for Dell grows in five to 10 days. Dell will use cushions made through the process to protect its PowerEdge R710 server four-packs.

The use of mushrooms expands Dell's use of alternative materials, as it has been switching some foam or plastic packaging to bamboo. Since late 2009, Dell has been using bamboo to cushion more and more electronics, now using it for half of its Inspiron laptops, some Latitude laptops, Streak tablets and Venue Pro smartphones.

Campbell wrote that Dell expects to use each type for different purposes: Mushrooms for heavier items like servers or desktop computers, and bamboo for laptops and phones.

By 2012, Dell plans to cut packaging by 20 million pounds, make 75 percent of its packaging curbside recyclable and increase recycled or renewable content by 40 percent. The bamboo packaging can be recycled or composted, while the mushroom packaging can be compostable.

Mushrooms - CC license by photogirl7.1 (Flickr)

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