Jasmine J. Lee

Zip Pack:

Biodegradable Packaging
Durable Enough for Drone Drops 

Project Summary 
6 Weeks
Under guidance of Max Pratt

It is a fact that modern healthcare would not be possible without the use of plastic and disposable plastic materials. My goal was to research and test a material that would require low energy fabrication methods to up-cycle agricultural waste into biodegradable packaging for emergency healthcare situations via drones.



Using first hand experience being hospitalized for two years when I was young, I realized the endless short cycle of plastic and foam used daily in the hospital.

My goal as a designer is to reinforce the circular relationship with nature and replace the "take-make-waste" linear system we have now.


What is the problem with healthcare?

Modern Healthcare would not be possible without the use of plastic and disposable materials. From the syringes of the needles that go into your body to all the outer packaging.

We all know that plastic is primarily utilized due to sanitary purposes. However, plastic and foam are unnecessary materials for outer packaging as crucial equipment such as needles and swabs would be individually packaged. In that case, why is plastic and foam continuously used? They are durable, easy to mass produce, and have always been used.


How are drones the future of healthcare?

In this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities have been relying on contactless delivery and social distancing. Therefore, a promising candidate of the future efficiency in contactless healthcare are drones. They would be able to deliver necessary equipment and information quickly and safely.

And as new technology progresses, we must consider all aspects of the line: production, use of so product, and most importantly, the disposal of the product.


Who is this project aiming to serve?

Zipline is a drone delivery company that inspired me to design for the evolving industry of drones in healthcare.
Their immense progress and future possibilities they have fostered in healthcare is admirable.
They are successfully transporting blood and health equipment in Rwanda, Ghana, and North Carolina.

The New Times | Rwanda

However, when drone packages are delivered to local homes or delivered in emergency situations,
there’s a low possibility that the containers would be correctly recycled or disposed.


What material could be an alternative to plastic and foam for Zipline?

My goal was to find a material that was low-energy- manufacturable, biodegradable, waterproof, lightweight, and durable enough to withstand being dropped from higher altitudes.


After experimenting, researching, and interviewing experts at the Nature Lab, I considered preexisting biomaterials: Kombucha leather, cellulose, biofoam, dehydrated food waste, and more,
I chose mycelium as the most viable option out of biodegradable materials.


To test each material’s properties and its viability, I decided to do a comparative material test using a simple egg drop test. The subjects were mycelium and the usual packaging materials: plastic, foam, and cardboard.

What is mycelium?

Mycelium is a type of fungi or mushroom that is grown from agricultural by-products (hemp.)
It is grown in molds then baked to preserve its shape, which is then used as biodegradable packaging.

“Mycelial networks (root-like structure) are unique, extremely fine, and strong, with high tensile strength and the ability to resist water, decay, and immense internal or external pressures.”

-Ecovative Design



Further Testing From a Height 

Dropping a simple paper parachute with an egg inside a test version of the mycelium box.



Rectangular Hexagon Form

A functional and simple shape was necessary for the feasibility for mass manufacturing for mycelium to grow in a set mold.
After bristol paper sketch models, I set on a rectangular hexagon. The shape gave stability when dropped, was able to contain a lot of material, and was easy to grip.


Process of Growing Mycelium 

After constructing a reusable corrugated plastic mold, I filled it with activated (aka slightly grown) hemp/ agricultural waste.
After 8 days of growth, I deconstructed the mold to find the mycelium in the hexagonal shape.

Click arrows to see slideshow 

Introducing Zip Pack...

Zip Pack:

Biodegradable packaging durable to withstand 
altitude and abrasion! 

With its spacious compartment, it can fit a variety
of health equipment.

Mycelium has the potential to replace plastic and foam for exterior packaging
in emergency drone drops in healthcare.

Thank You!
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