Man, is there anything mushrooms can’t do? They make a damn fine fake meat, they make Mario bigger, caterpillars smoke hookahs on them, the whole nine yards. And now, thanks to a company called Ecovative, they can be used to replace styrofoam in some of Earth’s most persistent enemies: packing materials and car parts.
The fake foam actually grows itself — Ecovative fills a mold with a mix of mushroom spores and a waste material like oat husks, and over a few days the mushrooms grow and the roots glue themselves together into a strong and lightweight material. Like styrofoam, it’s also waterproof and fireproof. Unlike styrofoam, it’s not the environmental equivalent of melanoma. In fact, it’ll biodegrade in just a month.
Ecovative’s founder gave a TED talk on the process last year, and now they’re rolling out the mushroom-based products about as fast as they can grow ‘em. Look for mushroom power-ups for computer packaging within a year, and for car parts, cosmetics, computer parts, and wine packaging in the future.