News

    Green Packaging Replaces Petroleum-Based Foam

    Packing material can be absorbed back into nature when its job is done

    Ecocradle serves the same purpose as traditional foams when used as a packaging material.
    Ecocradle serves the same purpose as traditional foams when used as a packaging material.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Smitha Raghunathan

    Buying a product these days often means you are getting more than you bargained for.

    Unwrapping your latest purchase can leave the room strewn with the cardboard, plastic and packing foam waste that kept your newest purchase protected until it reached the safety of your home.

    That may soon change, however, with a new product that can be used as compost when its job as packaging is done.

    Alternative to packaging foam

    Packing foam is useful for only a few weeks or months before being tossed into the trash.

    But after being thrown away, this petroleum-based material can survive for thousands of years in landfills. Now, there is an alternative to this wasteful practice: a new type of packing material that can be absorbed back into nature when its job is done.

    Ecocradle can be used as compost when it is no longer needed for packaging.
    Ecocradle can be used as compost when it is no longer needed for packaging.

    Eben Bayer is the CEO and cofounder of Ecovative Design, which manufactures Ecocradle, a natural packing alternative.

    "We source agricultural waste from around the world. So we have a regionalized or localized manufacturing process. If you're in the United States in the South you might use rice husks. In upstate New York where we're based we use things like buckwheat husks."

    Bayer explains that agricultural waste products become the bulk, or main body, of the packing material, which is held together by mushroom roots, or mycelium.

    "So we take these seed husks, we wet them, we cook them, we put them in a mold. We then add a liquid slurry of these mushroom cells or mycelium. And then over five days, indoors, in the dark, they self-assemble, they grow into packaging parts."

    Saving even more energy

    Ecovative Design is also working on a new sterilization process that's key to the growth of the mushroom cells.  

    Bayer's business partner, Gavin McIntyre, developed a process that depends entirely on natural plant compounds that inhibit microbial growth. The compounds include oils from cinnamon-bark, thyme, oregano and lemongrass - and create an aroma that McIntyre likens to pizza. The process will reduce the amount of energy used by about one-fifth, meaning new versions of Ecocradle will use only one-fortieth the energy required to manufacture traditional foam packing materials.

    This low-energy process will also free Ecovative Design from the traditional large scale manufacturing operations required by most packing companies. Instead, it hopes to locate its factories as close as possible to both its agricultural suppliers and its end-users. Bayer says this localized plan will save money and help the environment by reducing expensive transportation costs.

    Happy customers

    Steelcase, a global leader in the office furniture industry, recently switched from petroleum-based foam packaging to Ecocradle.

    Dennis Carlson works with packaging design and development at Steelcase.

    "What we found is that the Ecocradle materials that were being developed had very similar performance characteristics and, additionally, a very similar price-point."

    Carlson says this switch was inspired by the company's desire to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. It has already generated some positive feedback from their customers.    

    "People find it very interesting that we've gone this route. It [Ecocradle] decomposes in 30-45 days which is a really big deal, and something that they haven't been able to do with the previous foams. And they like the fact that they can either put it into a landfill and it'll break down or throw it in their garden."

    Just the beginning

    But Ecovative Design has its eye on replacing products in other markets, as well.

    For example, Bayer says the company is developing a product called Greensulate to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to foam or fiberglass insulation.

    "Ecovative is not just a packaging company. Packaging is the first application for our material because it's a really terrible idea to use a product that lasts 10,000 years for a couple weeks. So our vision is not just to help revolutionize the packaging market, not just to revolutionize the building market, but we really want to become one of the leaders in sustainable materials in this century."

    In the process, Bayer says, his company hopes to inspire others to do business in a way that values a healthy planet at least as much as healthy profits.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora