Materials UN

TOP 5 Biobased Materials Selected by the UN

MYCOFOAM

UN biobased materials mycofoam

Developed by Ecovative as an alternative to expanded polystyrene, or EPS. Mycofoam is made from agricultural waste placed into moulds and mixed with live mycelium fungus, which essentially grows the material into a finished shape that can be dried and used as a stable packaging material.

Mycofoam material is impact resistant and can be formed into a variety of shapes to suit customers’ needs, yet it biodegrades in nature and is made from renewable resources. Companies have already used it to replace EPS, including Dell Computers.

TEXTILES FROM MILK

un report biobased materials plastics milk textiles

Milk has been used to make plastics since the early 20th century. The casein protein found in milk was used for buttons and synthetic fabrics. It was quickly replaced by fossil-based plastics.

German company QMilch, has been using milk to create sustainable textile fibres. Qmilch has pioneered a method with less chemicals than the early 20th century manufacturers and produces a durable biopolymer with a multitude of uses. Qmilch uses milk that would otherwise been thrown away.

LEATHER FROM PINEAPPLE FIBRES

un report biobased materials plastics pineapple fibres

Artificial leather serves as a cheaper alternative to leather, but the process of creating it from fabric and plastic is unsustainable. Piñatex, manufactured by the London-based company Ananas Anam, is an environmentally friendly and durable alternative made from pineapple leaves.

Pineapple farming generates lots of leftover leaves that makes the entire process fits within a sustainable, circular supply chain and provides additional income to farmers. Farming communities in the Philippines collect the discarded leaves after harvest and extract the fibres, which are then processed into a mesh and sent to a factory in Spain for processing. The final product is then shipped directly to designers and manufacturers, who are already using Piñatex in the production of shoes, bags and furnishings.

CUTLERY FROM SORGHUM

un report biobased materials plastics edible cutlery

Bakeys, founded in 2010 by Narayana Peesapaty, is an Indian company that developed a groundbreaking alternative to plastic utensils: edible spoons made from sorghum flour, an energy efficient and resilient crop commonly grown in South Asia, Africa and Central America. The spoons are durable, easy to eat, and come in three flavours: plain, sweet and savoury.

PLATES AND BOWLES FROM PLANT LEAVES

un report biobased materials plastics plates bowls leaves

Plant leaves have been used as plates in many communities around the world but have been replaced by single-use plastic plates and bowls in many parts of the world.

Leaf Republic is a German start-up that sells food packaging produced in the method of traditional Indian Patraveli plates. The leaves are pressed and dried and stitched into plates and containers

Little Cherry is a UK based company that sells party supplies derived from the leaves of the areca palm, which are left over during the production of betel nut in India.