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How to Replace Plastic Packaging With Mushroom Experiments


Science & Tech  (tags: business, concept, design, discovery, environment, investigation, NewTechnology, research, science, scientists, technology )

Kit
- 346 days ago - america.aljazeera.com
More traditional Styrofoam packaging is made of polystyrene, an unsustainable petrochemical, and can take up to a million years to biodegrade naturally.



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Comments

Kit B. (276)
Monday September 16, 2013, 5:05 am


**Interesting short video at VISIT SITE

On this week's "TechKnow," expert contributor Lindsay Moran travels to Green Island, N.Y., to investigate how mushrooms are being used to create eco-friendly packaging and insulation materials.

"We're taking local farm waste and mixing it with tissues from mushrooms and growing replacements for plastic foams that are used in protective packaging," explains Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and one of the chief scientists at Ecovative Design, a "revolutionary new biomaterials company" in Green Island.

"It's not like plastics equals bad," explains McIntyre's business partner, Eben Bayer. "It's that they're fundamentally incompatible with the earth's biosphere."

More traditional Styrofoam packaging is made of polystyrene, an unsustainable petrochemical, and can take up to a million years to biodegrade naturally. One of Ecovative's goals is to develop packaging materials that not only decompose faster and more naturally, but also give back to the ecosystem. They do this by utilizing mycelium, the microscopic root structure that allows mushrooms to grow on trees and spread throughout the forest floor.

"The initial concept of using mushroom roots, or mycelium, as a resin was inspired when I saw mycelium growing through woodchips and holding them together," Bayer says. The final concept came together when he paired up with McIntyre, and together they developed Ecovative's revolutionary production process.

Local agricultural waste, such as corn stalks and husks, is cleaned and then mixed with mycelium. The mixture is incubated for about two days before being ground up and packed into molds. After allowing the mycelium to grow and fill out for about three more days, the molds are baked in a low-temperature oven to prevent further growth. They are then removed from the molds and trimmed to fit as packaging pieces for electronics, car parts, and more.

"We actually never grow mushrooms," Bayer explains. "We just keep the mycelium in this vegetative growth stage where it's always making more of this root structure."

Ecovative's packaging biodegrades much quicker than traditional polystyrene--a piece of their packaging can decompose in just a few months. It also adds helpful nutrients back into the soil.

But Ecovative doesn't draw the line at sustainable packaging. They're currently developing insulation for houses, using the same mushroom root growth structure to create a layer between the interior walls and exterior siding. The mycelium growth between the walls provides insulation, structure, and even an extra layer of protection for homes.

"The mycelium itself acts as a sort of fire retardant," one of Ecovative's employees explains to Moran, comparing Ecovative's insulation to quick-igniting traditional foam insulation. "We can keep an open flame on this for a few minutes before it actually becomes any danger. Overall, you're going to have more time to get out of your house."

"We see this as looking forward centuries, not just days," McIntyre concludes. "We want to make sure that this environment is available for our grandchildren and our grandchildren's children and that we're taking the best use of the natural resources that are provided to us today."
****

by Meredith Kile | Al Jazeera - America |
 

Past Member (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 8:19 am
This is a cool (and biodegradable) ! idea! Thanks Kit!
 

Arielle S. (317)
Monday September 16, 2013, 8:32 am
Amazing what we can do when we try.... I despise styrofoam so this is awesome in so many ways....
thank you for the upbeat story!
 

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Monday September 16, 2013, 9:03 am
This is amazing! Thank you for the good news!
 

Sara V. (0)
Monday September 16, 2013, 9:05 am
Great, except the corn husks and stalks which the mycelium is mixed with may be from GMO/biotech corn, and they would love another opportunity to sell us more of that material. There is so much GMO corn being grown that I do not support corn packaging for this reason - the altered genetic material enters the food chain when it biodegrades, and we don't need any more of that going around. Support the use of organic corn only.
 

Kit B. (276)
Monday September 16, 2013, 9:08 am

Oh yeah, Eco Vative is an American company.
 

JL A. (275)
Monday September 16, 2013, 11:40 am
Before CA banned peanut packaging, most of what I got delivered used peanuts made of cornstarch instead of styrofoam--now paper and bubble wrap is what I find as filler--the latter is still plastic (heavy sigh)
 

Micheael Kirkbym (85)
Monday September 16, 2013, 12:55 pm
So who needs petroleum based products when we can do it naturally?
 

Roger Garin-michaud (61)
Monday September 16, 2013, 1:24 pm
noted, thanks
 

Kit B. (276)
Monday September 16, 2013, 1:58 pm

This is not just filler for packages, it can also be used a insulation for homes.

@Michael Kirby - exactly.
 

Brian M. (145)
Monday September 16, 2013, 2:04 pm
Excellent post. Thanks. Now, if this mushroom filler could not only be reused or recycled, but cleaned and somehow prepared to human consumption...that's probably going just that one step too far to hope. Good article.
 

Birgit W. (144)
Monday September 16, 2013, 2:39 pm
Thanks for the article.
 

Dave C. (214)
Monday September 16, 2013, 3:12 pm
awesome
 

SuSanne P. (182)
Monday September 16, 2013, 4:39 pm
YOU HAVE MADE MY DAY...Brilliant news. Blessings to the scientists and passionate people who care. INSULATION too? Brian I think this is a very good beginning to your concerns! Thank You Kit.
 

Lois Jordan (55)
Monday September 16, 2013, 4:58 pm
Noted. Thanks for this intriguing info, Kit. Will be sharing it so others know.
 

GGmaSheila D. (163)
Monday September 16, 2013, 6:05 pm
Now I get these air-filled pockets in packages, but my recycling plant can't take those, so more plastic in landfill. Hate that. This sounds promising. Thanks.
 

Julie W. (21)
Monday September 16, 2013, 6:52 pm
I've been reading about alternatives to plastic packaging for years, but still haven't seen any? What happens to these ideas?
 

Dale O. (193)
Monday September 16, 2013, 8:50 pm
Fascinating and intriguing, just wonderful. So many alternatives out there but often a lot of the bigger businesses can't be to bothered to explore them.
 

june t. (65)
Monday September 16, 2013, 11:39 pm
There are a lot of alternatives, but they are not yet mainstream. It seems to take time for this to happen.
Many places in the city are changing to the "green" packaging, but still rare to see it in the smaller communities.
 

Patricia H. (468)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 1:21 am
noted
 

Frances Darcy (218)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 2:46 am
There is way too much packaging .
 

Robert Hardy (67)
Tuesday September 17, 2013, 9:20 pm
OK, I can live with this. I hope this bio-packing idea catches on!
 

Nimue P. (231)
Sunday September 22, 2013, 6:31 pm
Cool :)
 

Melania Padilla (178)
Monday September 23, 2013, 1:09 pm
Awesome!
 
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