Submitted to: Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/12/2012
Publication Date: 9/27/2012
Citation: Holt, G.A., McIntyre, G., Flagg, D., Bayer, E., Wanjura, J.D., Pelletier, M.G. 2012. Fungal mycelium and cotton plant materials in the manufacture of biodegradable molded packaging material: Evaluation study of select blends of cotton byproducts. Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy. 6(4):431-439. Interpretive Summary: This paper reports on six cotton-based blends that were manufactured for use in Ecovative Design's process of making molded packaging material out of fungal mycelium and cotton byproducts. The blends consisted of cotton burs with particles ranging from 7/64 of an inch to 2 inches, cottonseed hulls, gypsum, and corn starch. The exact recipe and particle size ranges are considered proprietary. The six blends were inoculated with a single fungus using two different inoculation methods, grain and liquid, for a total of twelve treatments. The twelve treatments were evaluated for numerous physical and mechanical properties. Results did not indicate one blend or inoculation method to be superior to the others for all physical properties measured. The results indicated the blends and inoculation method needed are based on the end use of the product. Overall, the treatments tested well and the results of this testing were used to help launch Ecovatives EcoCradle line of packaging material which is currently in use by two Fortune 500 and one Fortune 50 company.
Technical Abstract: The primary material used by the packaging industry is extruded polystyrene foam, which is commonly marketed as Styrofoam™. In its original formulation, Styrofoam™ is resistant to photolysis and effectively does not decompose. The light weight of Styrofoam™ packaging materials reduces the likelihood of widespread recycling. In our study, we investigated properties of an environmentally-friendly replacement for Styrofoam™. We developed six test blends from cotton-based biomass and evaluated each blend with respect to its suitability as substrate for colonization of selected fungi and its physical and mechanical properties. Test results revealed blends that met or exceeded like characteristics of extruded polystyrene foam.