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Biodegradable Material Offers a Sustainable Alternative to Styrofoam

Plastics and foams are ubiquitous in our everyday lives and serve a valuable role in many industries. But these materials are predominately derived from fossil fuels and most are not compostable. This creates a real problem when these materials are used in short-term applications like packaging, where their useful life lasts months at best. This is a concern for many municipalities since non-compostable synthetics continue to accumulate and fill landfills beyond their capacity.

Biomaterials can replace the plastic foams used in the protective packaging and construction industries. Technology by Ecovative Design uses the vegetative tissue from mushrooms, a vast network of unicellular filaments known as mycelium, as a natural adhesive to bind agricultural byproducts into a robust, foam-like material.

The products are grown to the desired shape in five days, and all the energy for growing the fungus comes from the agricultural waste. The materials are safe (styrene was recently deemed a carcinogen), entirely home compostable, and comparable in cost to plastic foams.

Read Gavin McIntyre’s blog post about vegetative packaging.

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