Ecovative is a company based near New York City that has developed a biodegradable plastic called Mushroom Materials. It is made from agricultural byproducts and mushroom mycelium, which is the vegetative part of a mushroom fungus and a natural glue. The material binds with crop waste like seed husks and corn stalks to form a “bioplastic” called Mushroom Material. The new “bioplastic” is fully biodegradable, which means is doesn’t take 1000 years to breakdown if it winds up in a landfill the way normal plastics do.
According to the company website, “Ecovative provides sustainable alternatives to plastics and plastic foams for packaging, building materials and other applications by using mushroom technology.” It is located in Green Island, New York. which seem appropriate, considering what they do.
Last year, architectural studio The Living built an organic tower in the courtyard of New York City’s MoMA PS1 Gallery. The design won first prize in the 2014 Young Architects program. “Prototyping is a crucial part of our design process,” says David Benjamin, principal of The Living and assistant professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture. “[Using Mushroom Material] was a great way for us to quickly explore options and get a feel for how this amazing new material works.”
Ecovative now offers a “Grow It Yourself” kit. Just add water and wait a few days for the dried mixture to regenerate. Then place it into molds and allowed it to grow. Designer Danielle Trofe has already “grown” a table lamp called the Mush-lume and a plant pot called the Mush-bloom.
“The ability to have a hands-on experience with the Mushroom Material, to grow it, to learn its properties and to experiment with its living characteristics, has not only created a much more dynamic prototyping experience, but a more inventive and in tune approach to material based product design,” says Trofe.
California surfboard manufacturer Surf Organic has used Mushroom Materials to make a bio-degradable surfboard as an alternative to its fiberglass and styrofoam models.
The idea of biodegradable plastics reversing the worldwide curse of traditional petroleum based plastics is certainly appealing. If nothing else, Ecovative has given a whole new meaning to the phrase “magic mushrooms.” What could you make with a Mushroom Material Grow It Yourself kit?