Styrofoam is widely used and becoming increasingly unpopular. It’s made using carcinogens and once discarded after a single use, it takes 100’s of years to decompose, filling up landfills and polluting our environment. In fact, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York city has recently proposed a city wide ban on using food packaging made from it. (Lets hope compostable packaging steps in.)
Ecovative, founded by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, offers the alternative of growing packaging from agricultural waste and mycelium (mushroom roots). It is made from waste, energy efficient (it even grows in the dark) and composts in your home compost heap. There are many exciting practical applications from packaging of delicate goods, home insulation, car parts, flip flops, surfboards and more. They have won numerous environmental and sustainability awards for this incredible product.
“There are three principles that should govern better materials. Firstly, they should be able to be created almost anywhere on the planet. Secondly, they should require considerably less energy to produce than current materials. Lastly, they should be able to be disposed of by nature’s wonderful open-source recycling system.” – Eben Bayer
It’s true, we have created an extremely complicated, resource intensive and inefficient system where we are using a limited resource (oil) in a way that creates waste and pollution to create something that needs another whole inefficient system (using more energy and creating more pollution) to “recycle” or “downcycle”. A plastic bottle that goes through a recycling process won’t be a plastic bottle again.
The use of nature to grow packaging that can be used and returned to nature for recycling is both obvious and profound and we look forward to seeing this product used more and more as an alternative to Styrofoam.
View this Ted talk with Eben Bayer for more information on how the the packaging is grown.