When it comes to shopping, it can be tough to find items that aren't packaged in plastic. In fact, one-third of household waste is packaging, and much of that ends up in landfills. This trend is starting to change, thanks to an unlikely material: fungi. That's right: mushrooms.
When combined with agricultural waste, mushroom material is rapidly renewable, naturally fire resistant, easily molded, high performing and cost competitive. The part of the mushroom that is most important for Ecovative is the mycelium or the mushroom roots.
The company has two ways of growing products. Molds allow the team to use standard or custom shapes to create products for packaging and home accessories. The process to develop this natural packaging sounds like something right out of science experiment book.
First, the team collects and cleans agricultural waste from farmers. Then, they introduce it to mycelium in reusable trays and step back to let nature do its magic. Amazingly, after just a few days, the parts are fully grown. At this point the newly formed parts are removed from the trays, dried and shipped to customers.
The second way Ecovative grows products is through their system of mCore Structural Panels. The team grows large blocks of mycelium composites which are used in structural applications such as door cores, furniture cores, and building construction. The result is a material that holds up very well of conventional packaging and can be used as a direct replacement for a range of different types of materials.
Unlike plastic and styrofoam, consumers can dispose of this packaging in a way that is not harmful to the environment. How does this work? While the mushroom material is durable, users can break it down if they expose it to the right conditions. If broken down into small pieces and introduced to other elements, the packaging can return to the earth in roughly one month.
To consistently get the right type of materials, Evocative has an internal and external group of pros that help them harvest specific kinds of mushrooms to have enough mycelium. The group is composed of scientists and product designers to make sure the product is always consistent and top notch.
So far Ecovative’s efforts to make a more eco-friendly alternative to harmful packaging have been recognized and applauded. The company’s co-founder even landed on the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list of top young innovators in the category of Manufacturing and Industry. With demand growing for more environmentally responsible packaging, the future looks bright for the development of mushroom-based packaging.