New technology developed by US Government scientists could see cotton waste used as a packaging material instead of polystyrene.
By combining cotton gin waste and fungi inside a cast, the two ingredients become one resulting in a spongy material similar in form to extruded foam polystyrene.
It could be used to literally grow packaging materials to protect computers and other breakables during shipping.
The product has been developed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service led by engineer Greg Holt. He has also worked in partnership with Ecovative Design that developed the patented method to use the fungi as a workhorse.
Under the procedure, cotton waste is blended, pasteurised and embedded into a customised cast tool. The tool is then injected with the fungus, which grows onto, in and around the cotton waste.
It eventually forms a new, consistently textured, solid mass. The resultant packaging material is biodegradable, compostable and flame retardant, but has the cushioning strength of synthetic packaging material.