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Friday, 2 September 2011

Tableware Grown from “Food,” Saving the Planet One Cup at a Time

In the near future, maybe everything we need will be assembled on the spot in machines like Star Trek‘s replicators, but for now, we’ll have to settle for growing cups, plates, and packing material from food.
A few inventors are working on products that use mushrooms, rice husks. They’re less harmful to the environment and break down into nothing.
Ecovative’s rice-and-mushroom packaging, for example, is intended to replace Styrofoam and uses an eighth of the energy required to make a similar amount of the petroleum-based stuff. And we are working to bring edible drinking glasses made of flavored agar–similar to gelatin–to the consumer market.
Yes, cups from corn and the like have been around for years, but those products have their own problems. Products made from polylactide (PLA)–which can be derived from corn, beets, potatoes or wheat–can’t be recycled with the far more common polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in soda bottles, and claims that the plastic biodegrades may have been greatly exaggerated. Could a gelatinous tumbler be any different?

For one, the feel is totally different.It’s slightly rubbery, very soft. And no, the cups made of agar and flavored to complement whatever you’re drinking, doesn’t get sticky.
Another product made from food–sort of–is Ecovative‘s EcoCradle, which is composed of rice husks and fungal mycelium–more or less mushroom roots, explains company founder Gavin McIntyre. His company fills a mold with agricultural waste, like rice husks or cotton gin discards, adds mycelia, and within two weeks the roots have grown to form a dense, lightweight network stronger than styrofoam and ultimately compostable, says McIntyre. 

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