In Utrecht, scientists led by Professor Han Wösten are working on a biodegradable alternative to plastic, which requires no fossil fuels. Westland ficus grower Erik Person from Zwethlande Nursery in Honselersdijk wants to trial the sustainable pot in his company.
The fungus (mycelium) is grown on green agricultural waste. In addition to a plastic-like material, other biodegradable products can be created, such as wood, rubber, leather and textiles. There are about ten million different fungi, and according to Wösten only a very small percentage are bad or unhealthy. In any case, the fungus is no longer alive at the end of the process. The material is heated to 60 ºC, which kills all the fungi, leaving behind a natural product.
The fungus researchers are working with Westland ficus grower Eric Person, who produces one million ficus plants every year. “This project is a great opportunity to develop a sustainable alternative to all those plastic plant pots,” says Person.
In the Netherlands, about 3 billion plastic plant pots are used every year. “It’s a challenge to design one of these fungus pots, because a lot of different aspects have to be taken into consideration,” says Wösten. “How does the plant adapt to the pot? For example, is the pot going to stay in one piece for long enough? That’s why the grower has to test them in practice.”
Wösten is convinced that fungus will eventually turn out to be a sustainable alternative for plastic packaging. “According to our calculations, the prices are almost the same as those of a plastic pot, making fungus pots an attractive alternative,” according to Wösten. “Meanwhile, we are examining how we can make our production process more sustainable.” The experiment is still in its first phase. The grower expects to have a commercially successful product within three or four years. See also the report by NOS.
Source: NOS. Photo: Zwethlande Nursery.