Fungi Could be the Death of Styrofoam Cups

Photos via Ecovative Design

For years now, coming into contact with polystyrene, or as it´s better know, Styrofoam, has been nearly unavoidable, despite the well-documented hazardous effects it has on the environment--namely, that it can´t easily be recycled nor does it biodegrade. Oh, and it´s petroleum based, too. As a result, far too much of the 35 million tons of the stuff produced yearly ends up floating in our oceans, lakes, and streams, or blowing like tumbleweed through our streets and parks, years and decades after it served its brief role as a disposable coffee cup or carrying case for your leftovers.

But, with the advent a completely biodegradable material derived from fungi and the roots of agricultural residues that has the same performance as polystyrene, the death of Styrofoam may finally be at hand--so say the two inventors of the EcoCradle.Efe Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, both graduates of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, say the idea for the eco-friendly material was inspired by observing wild fungi roots. The pair went on to found the company Ecovative to promote their idea, which has already received praise from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

According to the company´s Web site:

EcoCradle packaging provides the same cushioning, strength and protection as petrochemical based materials such as Styrofoam. But unlike Styrofoam, EcoCradle won't persist in a landfill, or as litter, for an eternity. When you're done with EcoCradle, it can be tossed into your garden or compost pile, and EcoCradle is anaerobically compostable, so it won't persist in landfills.

Along with the support that EcoCradle is garnering from environmental groups, manufactures, too, seem keen on the idea of going green. The pair has already received orders for 100,000 units of their innovative product for 2010. As the demand increases for eco-friendly products and companies that are using polystyrene now are encouraged to jump on board, more great, green innovations are bound to follow.

So, with the creation of alternative, eco-friendly material to replace the hazardous material used predominately today, the death of Styrofoam should be swift and clean. Sadly though, its white, petroleum based ghosts will be haunting us for years to come--to remind future generations, perhaps, of a time before consumers demanded environmental responsibility.

More on Compostable Alternatives
The Consumer Scoop on SunChips' 100 Percent Compostable Packaging
Tasty Lamps That You Can Compost
ETech 2009: New Materials for Sustainable Products

Tags: EPA | Green Packaging | Zero Waste