Great Lakes Permaculture

Fungus Foam

Eben Bayer, left, and Gavin McIntyre

Every automobile has approximately 30 pounds of foam if we total up the seat cushions, arm rests, head restraints, door panels, and headliners. Multiply that by the total number of automobiles produced and it equals 3 billion pounds of foam used in the United States alone, and 9 billion pounds used worldwide. Many engineering groups have been working on sustainable alternatives such as soybean, dandelion, and now mycelium. Bio-based foams are starting to emerge on the market, but Ecovative Design (ecovativedesign.com) is taking a unique direction. They are using root system of mushrooms to create a binding agent for organic based agricultural waste. The result is foam that is strong, lightweight, waterproof, and fireproof. While standard foam products can sit in the landfill for many years without decomposition, the mycelium foam decomposes within a month. The price point for the new fungus foam will be competitive to the current foam products.

Ford Motor Company is no stranger to bio-based foam; they have used soy-based foam for seat cushions on recent Mustang models. Now their interest lies in developing fungus foam for doors, dashboards, and bumpers with Ecovative Design staff. Ecovative Design founders Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre have not been sitting idly by the sidelines after their recent discoveries. They have been expanding their product line to include packaging material, consumer products, replacements for engineered wood products including particleboard and fiberboard, along with building products such as acoustical tiles, insulation, and SIPs structural insulation panels. Production facilities are being established for Green Island, NY with an expected opening date of spring 2012. A second facility is planned in Texas sometime in 2013.

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