According to United Nations statistics, since 1950, humans have produced more than 8.3 billion tons of plastics, most of which are disposed of in landfills and take centuries to break down. Ecovative, a biotech startup from New York, wants to replace plastics with mushrooms to reduce pollution. More precisely, the ecovative used to replace plastic is the mycelium in mushrooms. According to Ecovative, a new method has been developed to allow mycelium to grow into a specific shape and size.
First, they collect some organic plant waste such as dead leaves and then inoculate the mycelium in these plant wastes. After special treatment, the hyphae not only grow around the periphery of these plant wastes, but also wrap the waste, and can continue to intersperse between the internal gaps, and finally ‘bundle’ the waste together. According to them, the whole process takes only about a week, and the water and electricity consumed are very low. When you no longer need these hygienic packaging, you bury it in your garden, which not only degrades, but even becomes a fertilizer in the soil. At present, their solution to environmental problems has been favored by many large companies and investors such as 3M, and they have even signed a $9.1 million contract with the US Department of Defense.
In an interview with CNN, a professor of biology at Clark University said that the emergence of these emerging materials is enough to be very exciting, whether it is economically viable or not. In fact, mycelium is not the first time people have seen and made into materials. As early as 2017, British home designer Sebastian has tried to make homes using mycelium. Sebastian combines mycelium with discarded willow wood in woodland to create a range of furniture products such as chairs, hangers, and chandelier shades, which are on display at the London Design Festival.
Sebastian didn’t think of mycelium at first, she just wanted to find a natural material that could replace the glue and bind the wood together. The mycelium eventually showed much better results than she expected. For Ecovative, they are not the first to deal with mycelium. They used to belong to At last Food, a vegetarian meat company, and have been trying to use mycelium to make bacon.
When Ecovative became officially independent, replacing myplastic materials with mycelium was only their first step. The founder and CEO of Ecovative also stated their ultimate goal in an interview: Our ultimate goal is to ‘plant’ a lung. We hope to use lung cells to grow mycelium and use mycelium to form a network of capillaries and eventually make a lung that can be transplanted into humans.