Ecovative uses mycelium, the ‘roots’ of mushrooms, as a natural binding agent for packaging and building materials. Using agricultural byproducts as a base, they can literally grow new materials for a range of industries.

Ecovative has developed an alternative to conventional packaging and building materials. Taking inspiration from the structural composition of mushrooms, they can produce a durable material from agricultural byproducts like corn stalks and rice husks. The waste material is cleaned, then injected with a special strain of mycelium – the vegetative root structures found in mushrooms and other fungi – which then acts as a natural binding agent.

This process takes place in a cast, allowing the material to be formed into blocks, sheets, or customised shapes such as encasings for shipping. It takes between four to six days to ‘grow’ the material, after which it is placed in a heat press to remove any excess moisture and to kill the mycelium, preventing any additional growth. The material is fully biodegradable, but won’t start to degrade unless it is exposed to the right conditions.

At their pilot plant in New York, Ecovative are currently manufacturing boards and custom moulded packaging material. However, they envisage that their product will in future be used in more large scale applications such as housing. They also offer a ‘grow it yourself’ system, whereby they can equip customers to produce custom materials for their own use. A number of creative designers are already using these materials to make furniture, lamps, vases and more.

Why you should care

Conventional building materials like particleboard and plywood are made using synthetic resins as binding agents. These often contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Avoiding chemical additives also makes Ecovative’s products easier and safer to biodegrade. In addition, when used in packaging this product can help avoid the numerous impacts of petrochemical-based materials such as marine pollution.

How the Global Goals are addressed

Good health and wellbeing
Replacing synthetic resins with naturally occurring mycelium can prevent our exposure to carcinogens that can be found in conventional building materials.

Responsible consumption and production
Ecovative’s value chain uses waste products as a key ingredient and their materials are entirely biodegradable at the end of their useful life, therefore preventing waste generation.

Life below water
Ecovative’s packaging materials are fully biodegradable and can be composted at home, reducing marine pollution that may be caused by conventional building product waste.