Mushrooms transform agricultural bio-waste into packaging

‘Mushroom packaging’ is the first commercial offering from New York based company Ecovative.

Ecovative CEO Eben Bayer claims that, by using environmentally-friendly materials that perform like plastics, it’s possible to compete with the oil industry to produce packaging, home insulation, fiberboard for furniture and even surfboards.

By feeding agricultural waste to Mycelium (the webs of thread-like mushroom roots) under correct conditions, the waste is turned into a material that can be moulded into any shape, having similar properties to Styrofoam – a polymer-based material made from Polystyrene.

Commonly used in packaging, Polystyrene is made from oil, a diminishing resource with a fluctuating price. Environmentally harmful to produce, waste plastic packaging is difficult to dispose of – degrading very slowly, it often end up in oceans, on beaches or in landfill. By contrast, Mushroom Packaging is renewable, biodegradable and made from crop waste bought from farmers – providing them with additional income.

Founded in 2007, Ecovative has won the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge (a $750,000 sustainable business prize), grants from the US EPA, the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture; and in 2011 the company was named as a technological pioneer by the World Economic Forum.

Ecovative plan to explore the medical implants business, but not before development has finished on Myco Boards, which could be used to replace fiberboard in furniture and other products, thus reducing the pressure on forests and eliminating the formaldehyde adhesives used in fiberboard.

Last year the company licensed its packaging technology to Sealed Air who will market and sell Ecovative’s Mushroom Packaging by relocating production to Iowa and using corn stalks as feedstock. Sealed Air provide packaging for Dell, Steelcase and Crate & Barrel.

As an award winning recycler, Recycling Lives’ innovative manufacturing processes also use waste plastics and glass; for example we have developed a process that produces large concrete blocks using glass from old televisions.

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