Eben Bayer and Ecovative have created an all natural and low-energy alternative material to styrofoam packaging made from mycelium.
As plastic waste continues to pile up in landfills and natural ecosystems, innovation in material resources and alternatives are desperately needed. Eben Bayer of Ecovative hopes to push manufacturers away from using plastic, specifically Styrofoam, by offering a low-tech and environmentally benign material called EcoCradle.
Bayer presented the story behind his mycelium based material this past July at the TED conference in Oxford, England.
The project spawned from the desire to create a new class of materials created from plants, that would function similarly to plastic but not have the environmentally detrimental aspects of synthetics.
Eben Bayer and business partner Gavin McIntyre looked at natural ecosystems and mushrooms for inspiration. Rather than relying on a limited resource, such as petrol, EcoCradle is made from agriculture crop waste and is totally compostable. EcoCradle is made by adding mycelium to natural byproducts which then consumes the materials and "self-assembles" into a new product.
Not only is EcoCradle require minimal energy and complexity to create, it is also fire-resistant, moisture-resistant, vapor-resistant, and can handle impact and auditory loads. Bayer calls this material nature's polymer.
"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 (TED.com)
This material process allows for a variety of base materials to be used and formed into any shape, similar to molding plastics. Because the base material is interchangeable and uses natural byproducts, Bayer foresees manufacturing plants across the globe, encouraging local manufacturing and disposal, similar to the local food movement. Because EcoCradle is totally compostable so it can be returned to the soil after product use.