Oct 282010

Mushroom Styrofoam Alternative

In an age where many oil fields are in terminal decline and our dependence on petroleum reaches critical proportions,

it is simply crazy that with every Styrofoam-packaged item consumers purchase, one cubed foot of Styrofoam representing 1.5 liters of petrol is thrown away. Moreover, in the U.S., Styrofoam is said to take up 25 percent of the space in landfills. A much better-sounding alternative is to use naturally-produced EcoCradle. It’s created from useless agricultural by-products and mushroom roots, has all the same properties as other expandable polystyrene (EPS), and is fully compostable.

The EcoCradle production process begins by identifying a locally-sourced economically useless by-product from agriculture, for instance corn husks in China, buckwheat husks and oat hulls in the U.S., or soybean husks in Spain. They are cleaned, cooked, cooled and pasteurized with basic equipment and inoculated with mycelium, the root systems of mushrooms. The material is then pressed into a mold for whatever the end-product will be. Over the next five days, the filamentous mycelium use the energy in the agri-wastes to self-assemble a biocomposite chitinous polymer matrix of lignin and cellulose, made from millions of tiny fibers and the husks that don’t get digested.

The material itself can have many of the same properties we would expect from Styrofoam. It can be insulating, fire-retardant, moisture-resistant, vapor-resistant, and can absorb mechanical and acoustical impacts. It can be used for heavy items, or for shipping food and perishables – by changing the seed husk, material properties such as density, resilience, surface finish, feature resolution and the look of the material can be altered to suit. It’s reliable, easy to use and compares favorably with other custom-molded foams like EPS in density. Furthermore it is cost-competitive with existing synthetics.

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