Magic Mushrooms Replace Polystyrene

mushrooms replace polystyrene

If Eben Bayer has his way the evil that is extruded polystyrene foam, generally referred to as Styrofoam, will be replaced by mushrooms in the next few years. Polystyrene is in everything: packaging materials, coffee cups, takeout containers, insulation, even flotation devices. Made in part from petroleum, polystyrene is basically indestructible and thus non-biodegradable – it is estimated that polystyrene takes up 25% of U.S. Landfill space.  To replace polystyrene Bayer, with partner Gavin McIntyre, invented Greensulate a mushroom based insulation that can manufacture itself in 5 days.

How can a product manufacture itself? Greensulate uses fast growing mushroom mycelium to bind agricultural castoffs like seed and corn husks in a mold producing insulation and packaging pieces. The mushroom’s mycelium, which is analogous to a plants root system, uses the energy trapped in the agricultural castoffs to create microscopic webs that spread through organic matter until it is one tightly knit block, corner piece, or whatever shape is desired.

Bayer and McIntyre developed the new packaging material guided by 4 key principals.  First, they wanted a product that could be constructed from local open feedstock, so instead of petroleum China could produce insulation from rice by-products, or the US could use corn castoff.  Second, the product should self assemble to save energy and reduce the need for large machinery.

Luckily, mycelium grows most effectively in the dark saving the company a buddle on electricity. Third, they wanted a 100% biological yield so that even the waste products were fully incorporated into the final product. Finally, they needed a product made completely of natural polymers so the product could be 100% biodegradable even improving soil if it was thrown into a compost bin.

Source: Celsias

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