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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Grow your own packing material

Wouldn’t it be great to make a biodegradable packing material that grows itself into desired shapes? Gavin McIntyre and Even Bayer are former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students who founded their own company, Ecovative Design, to do just that.

Their new product, called Mycobond, is a composite of mushroom threads, or mycelia, and agricultural waste. Mycobond can be grown in any desired shape simply by using the appropriate starter molds.

First, the molds to be used are disinfected to prevent contamination with wild spores, and then filled with mycelia and agricultural leftovers, such as wood fiber. The mushroom roots digest the agricultural waste and grow to tightly pack the plastic mold. The end result is a solid block of Mycobond shaped to pack around objects. Once a customer receives their package, the packing material, called EcoCradle, can be used as compost. Combined with the fact that the entire manufacturing process uses only one eighth the energy of traditional foam packing material, this new product would be a welcome addition to the green economy.

McIntyre and Bayer envision selling not only finished Mycobond products, but also kits for people to grow their own EcoCradle packing materials.

EcoCradle packaging material is composed of agricultural byproducts (cotton gin trash) bound together by fungal mycelium. With an appearance and functionality of polymer foams, EcoCradle can be manufactured with just one eighth the energy and one tenth the carbon dioxide of traditional foam packing material.

Credit: Edward Browka, Ecovative Design