In the near future, maybe everything we need will be assembled on the spot in machines like Star Trek’s replicators, but for now, we’ll have to settle for growing cups, plates, and packing material from food.

A few inventors are working on products that use mushrooms, rice husks, and even agar to create new versions of single-use disposable items. They’re less harmful to the environment and break down into nothing.

Ecovative’s rice-and-mushroom packaging, for example, is intended to replace Styrofoam and uses an eighth of the energy required to make a similar amount of the petroleum-based stuff. And product design consultancy The Way We See The World is working to bring edible drinking glasses made of flavored agar–similar to gelatin–to the consumer market. Jelloware.jpg Yes, cups from corn and the like have been around for years, but those products have their own problems. Products made from polylactide (PLA)–which can be derived from corn, beets, potatoes or wheat–can’t be recycled with the far more common polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in soda bottles, and claims that the plastic biodegrades may have been greatly exaggerated. Could a gelatinous tumbler be any different? (continue reading)

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