Single-use plastic might be one of the best expressions of our linear economy and our “throwaway culture”. While convenient, single-use plastic is discarded after just one use, think food containers and shopping bags
Whenever we design a product to be thrown away, we are disregarding the amount of time, energy and effort that goes into producing, exporting and importing these products. We are also ignoring that once single-use plastics are thrown away, they won’t disappear, they will remain in our ecosystems for decades or more.
And even though we already produce a massive amount of plastic – more than 78 million metrics tones of plastic packaging every year, projections claim that by 2030 plastic production is expected to increase by 40%. Since the packaging industry is the largest converter of virgin plastics, this sector must act on and design new alternatives to plastic. *
Ecovative produces packaging that are fully compostable alternatives to synthetic materials. The packagings are made of mycelium grown in and around agriculture by-products, acting thereby as a glue, and can take any shape needed. At the end of use, products can be composted at home.
Mycelium, a fungal network of threadlike cells, then acts like a “natural, self-assembling glue”. This enabled the team to formulate a new method to produce materials able to replace various types of products, including petroleum-based expanded plastics.
Eben Bayer explains that the company is using “mushrooms to create an entirely new class of materials which perform a lot like plastic during their use but are made from crop waste and are fully compostable at the end of their lives.”
The raw material used is agricultural feedstock. The company uses parts of plants that cannot be used for food or feed, therefore with low economic value. These are cleaned and inoculated with mushroom tissue. The technique can use multiple feedstocks, thus allowing Ecovative to use locally available crops.
Ecovative is also investigating in further applications, such as insulation, consumer products, and new bio-materials.