Plastic Alternatives: Exploring Mycelium as a Medium

Link to my final Paper.

This research deals with using mycelium as a medium for (1) degrading plastic and (2) growing alternative and sustainable materials—both of which address the rise in global plastic consumption and pollution. A series of prototypes were made using Ecovative’s Reactivating Dry Material to demonstrate the potential uses for these mycelium- grown products and to show how easily we can substitute such materials for those that are traditionally made from polyurethane and other harmful, toxic plastics. In addition, preliminary experiments were conducted to understand the potential for bioremediation using the fungus organism schizophyllum commune. Using both yeast malt and potato dextrose agar mediums, ten plastic samples were examined for 15 days. The yeast malt agar mediums yielded the best results. In less than a week the fungus samples on yeast malt plates grew to approximately twice the size of those on the potato dextrose plates. The 10 samples continue to be under observation and will be observed until degradation is complete and the plastic is gone. As of this writing, the coffee cup lid sample appears to already be undergoing degradation. Further research on timing using a broader selection of polyurethane samples will be completed over the next 12 months as part of the New Challenge Sustainable Design Award. 

Mycelium Experiments: Growing Building Materials

Ecovative is a company at the forefront of innovation by reimagining our world with products that are “grown” rather than “machined”. Opening up these materials to designers and architects is allowing for an ecology revolution where the harmful, toxic, wasteful industrial processes of the 20th century are being supplanted by green, virtually waste-less systems. This may be the key to the future of sustainable design and construction. 

Ecovative embodies their mission to “rid the world of toxic, unsustainable materials” by propagating the GIY movement. Just as the DIY movement has revolutionized open-source physical computing and hardware, the Grow It Yourself movement is making biology open-source and has even started a bio-hacking subculture. Ecovative sells mushroom material kits allowing everyone to experiment in growing their own products.

 Using the Ecovative GIY kit, I made a number of prototypes as a proof-of-concept that anyone can grow their own materials with 0% pollution, 0% waste and at a fraction of the cost of non-sustainable materials such as plastics. 

Here are some photos of my process:

Bio Plastic Experiments 2.0

I am continuing to experiment with bioplasic. In this experiment I used Rockite and mixed it with the bioplastic to test the effects of the strength and drying. I also used the standard recipe to experiment with color and to try to make the material thinner and have a more uniform look to the material. 

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Experiments in Bio Plastic 1.0

This is an experiment making bio plastic with natural ingredients. Every single ingredient to make bioplastic you can buy at Whole Foods. 


4 Tablespoons Water (distilled)

1 Tablespoon Tapioca

1 Teaspoon Vinegar

1 Teaspoon Glycerin 


I attempted to use a silicone mold to experiment with using forms. This was an epic fail! I realized that the bioplastic needs air ventilation to dry.  You can see in the finished product, that the plastic got shriveled and lost the form of the heart. I think this is because of the drying process.