How To Replace Styrofoam With Mushrooms

Lately at my house we’ve been getting a lot of packages. And with packages, comes styrofoam. My three-year-old loves styrofoam. Me, not so much. He breaks it up and it makes a huge mess. The little bits get everywhere and they are impossible to clean up. I can only imagine that multiplied by 100 million homes in the U.S. alone.

Styrofoam is everywhere, but nobody really thinks about it. It is a $20 billion dollar business in the U.S. and occupies an estimated 25% of the country’s landfill by volume. But Eben Bayer is thinking about it. He is a greentech entrepreneur who recently gave a TED talk (embedded below) where he describes the problem and what he is trying to do about it. Instead of using styrofoam packaging, which is a petroleum-based plastic that pretty much never goes away, he and his team have come up with a way to use mushrooms and agricultural waste such as seed husks to grow bio-degradable packaging material.

If you think about it, styrofoam really should be replaced with something that is compostable. It generally only has to last during shipping to protect items. But once it arrives at your home, it is the first thing you throw away (if your kids don’t destroy it first). Bayer is the CEO of Ecovative Design, which literally grows packaging materials from mycelium, a substance found in fungi, and various seed husks. It can be molded into any shape and takes about 5 days to grow.

The big question that remains is how much does this cost, and can it compete with styrofoam at scale?

(Hat tip to Green Thing)