Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The new growth area in packaging

Soon we might be throwing our old packaging on the garden as fertiliser.

In the world of packaging, it's hard to avoid polystyrene because it can be made cheaply in whatever shape you need. Unfortunately, it comes at a price – it's made from petroleum and doesn't biodegrade, making it one of the biggest forms of pollution on the planet. In the US it makes up about 30%(!) of all landfill.

Now two young New Yorkers have developed a way to grow packaging which does many of the same things as polystyrene. It uses agricultural byproducts such as rice husks and cottonseed and binds them together with mushroom roots. This is all grown in moulds to create an infinite variety of shapes.

The result is compact, light and can resist extreme temperatures. Best of all, it's fully biodegradable and its manufacture takes about one tenth of the energy of polystyrene. Learn more about it on their site.

Eben Bayer, one of the twenty-something brainiacs who came up with it, says the long term goal is to "replace all plastic and foams and mitigate their environmental consequences." Here at Oblong we'd love to see him succeed, and quickly.