I was very excited today during a TED talk of Eben Bayer, CEO of the company 'ecovative design', who presented ecovative's decomposable materials made with the help from fungi mycelia. Two materials are on the market already, 'ecocradle' for packaging and 'greensulate' for insulation purposes.
The process is as smart as it is easy and environmentally benign. A wide array of lignocellulosic feedstock can be fitted into molds where its overgrown by the fungal mycelium which is partly processing the material and gluing it together. It takes five days to produce small packaging elements with a fraction of the energy used to produce a comparable styrofoam element. Ecovative materials are as well a perfect example of the 'craddle-to-craddle' concept as they can be readily composted in your backyard (if available) or centrally after collection. The 'ecovative' business model for global expansion foresees distributed production facilities which each use a local lignocellulosic feedstock.
There are some untold benefits as well. Carbon is stored temporarily in the products and it is easy to imagine how many CDEs can be put into a slower carbon cycle while being used as packaging material. From an urbanistic point of view these materials can be, amongst others, a way to enhance urban soils by decomposing a fraction of the material inflow to cities, thereby saving considerable amounts of primary energy used today for production and disposal of packaging products. The landscape field should be wide opened for these materials as well. There are so many materials used in landscape construction which would actually function in a better way if they became over time a structural component of the soil. hm...lets imagine.
It is good to know that a market-ready product is out there to compete with today's environmentally adverse packaging materials. I wish the team of ecovative all the best in their future development and am curious about more products which can be developed from mycelia-molded lignocellulosic materials. !!!