Brussels company uses food waste to create fungi insulation

Brussels company uses food waste to create fungi insulation
Mycelium materials created by Belgian company PermaFungi. Credit: PermaFungi

Brussels company PermaFungi has developed a new type of mycelium-based wall insulating panel, which aims to reduce waste and provide a more sustainable alternative to traditional building materials, RTBF reports.

The mushrooms are grown with hay and discarded coffee grounds collected from cafés and fast-food restaurants across Brussels. The mixture is stored in hanging bags in damp warehouses below Brussels' Tour & Taxis. After two weeks, the fungi begin to squeeze through holes that pierce in the bags and are harvested and taken to be eaten.

The remaining soil, mycelium (mushroom seeds), and straw is then reused and mixed with additional spores to create the final shaped insulation panels. The panels themselves are a by-product of food production and will help cut down on waste from eco-friendly alternative protein sources.

Company employees give a tour of PermaFungi's underground growing facility in Tour & Taxis, Brussels. Credit: PermaFungi

“Nothing is wasted,” explains Victor Thomas, the scientific director of the company. “At the end of our production chain, we recover the digested coffee grounds and spores and reinsert them at the beginning of our production chain to produce insulation panels.”

The field of myco-materials is rapidly developing and offers a novel approach to sustainable construction materials, for use in both homes and businesses. American myco-material company Mycoworks has created a whole series of mycelium imitation leathers and materials, which have already been used by luxury fashion brand Hermès.

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PermaFungi has already developed a line of sustainable lampshades made from mycelium substrates. In the long-term, the Belgian company wants its mycelium products to compete with plastics, including in the fields of packaging and insulation.

An alternative to plastic

According to the producers, myco-materials create ten times less carbon dioxide and use eight times less energy than polystyrene foam. Furthermore, the material is 100% biodegradable, making it ideal for packaging.

“We are hoping to use it for other applications in the medium term, in particular coffins and funeral urns. The construction and packing sectors represent 52% of plastic consumption worldwide and presents a major societal and economic challenge,” the company stated.

By the end of 2025, the company aims to produce around 12 tonnes of myco-materials per month, thereby recycling fifteen tonnes of waste.

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