In the EU, the European Patent Office announced that Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre are among the 15 finalists nominated for the European Inventor Award 2019, for their eco-friendly packaging from mushrooms. In 2006, Bayer and McIntyre filed their first US patent for their material. The following year they founded their company, the New York-based Ecovative Design, to begin commercializing it. The two inventors, who met while studying Mechanical Engineering and Product Design and Innovation at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, decided to focus on packaging. Today, Ecovative supplies mycelium-based packaging to companies looking to reduce their plastic consumption. Brands such as IKEA and Dell are two examples of businesses that use the material for packaging or shipping purposes. The company is now expanding its product range to building insulation, eco-friendly furniture, insulation for jackets and resilient foam for footwear.
The biomaterial has many advantages over traditional counterparts. It is strong, delivering a strength-to-weight ratio comparable to many plastic-based products, and fully degradable in 45 to 180 days. Toxicity studies even show that the material can enrich the soil. All of the energy for growth is contained within the waste matter, meaning that there is no need for accelerated heating. The manufacturing process therefore requires between one-fifth and one-eighth of the energy used for foamed plastics. Production is also entirely sustainable, using local supply chains and sourcing raw materials from within a 100 km radius of processing facilities.