Can Mushrooms Replace Packing Peanuts?
By Katy Rank Lev, MNN
Your days of picking packing peanuts out of the carpet could be numbered. According to e!ScienceNews, a product called Mycobond is sweeping the shipping industry. The main ingredients? Inedible agricultural waste and mushroom roots. According to the article, the fungus-based material takes “just one-eighth the energy and one-10th the carbon dioxide of traditional foam packing material.” And the best part? You can add these shipping supplies to the compost bin once your package arrives safe and sound.
A New York-based company, Ecovative Designs, is producing the new packing technology. Founders Gavin McIntyre and Even Bayer emphasize that they don’t “manufacture” their materials — they grow them. According to the article, the product is not dependent on petroleum and so will have a much more stable supply cost. The founders received a National Science Foundation grant to hone their sterilization process (necessary to get their mushroom roots growing free from “competing” fungi).
According to the article, the two currently are exploring cinnamon-bark oil, thyme oil, oregano oil and lemongrass oil to help Mycobond grow in the open air. The article quotes McIntyre, who says the lab-like sterilization room “simply emulates nature,” and “uses compounds that plants have evolved over centuries to inhibit microbial growth.”
The article goes on to describe how the production process of Mycobond remains “nearly energy-free,” utilizing pre-formed plastic molds for the products to grow inside and dark rooms kept at room temperature. The pair hopes the refined disinfection process will enable even more efficiency — they predict it will take one 40th of that “required to create polymer foam.”
NSF officer Ben Schrag told e!ScienceNews that Ecovative’s project is compelling because its “primary competitive advantage lies in [its] sustainability.” The company is also at work on a flame-retardant home insulation product. With several Fortune 500 companies on its client list, Ecovative plans to launch grow-it-yourself packaging kits for companies and homeowners by 2013.