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From Bio Waste To SCOBY Packaging

The MakeGrowLab is in the process of patenting the SCOBY material

If you’ve ever made kombucha, you’re familiar with the process of using a culture of bacteria and yeast to ferment tea. That culture is called a “scoby” and the process has inspired designer Roza Janusz to look at the ways that natural bio-waste can be used to replace traditional packaging materials such as plastic and leather.

All photos courtesy of MakeGrowLab

MakeGrowLab’s SCOBY Packaging is home-compostable, has a shelf life of 2 years, an oxygen barrier and a microbial barrier, is insoluble in water and impermeable to water, and is 100% free from plastic and microplastic, not to mention being edible!  From bags to bowls, the material can be used for all kinds of packaging and wrapping that might normally be done with plastic.

Photo courtesy of MakeGrowLab

The SCOBY project began with the early work of Polish designer and MakeGrowLab co-founder Roza Janusz. With her work, she wanted to answer the question: “What if we could grow materials instead of making them and at the end of their cycle, use it as fertilizer which would then be used to continue the cycle of a biological production system?” Roza experimented with agricultural waste, using the kombucha process to grow the SCOBY material. In order to refine the end-product of the SCOBY, which wasn’t quite ready to be used as packaging and textile, Roza teamed up with Josh Brito to form the MakeGrowLab.

Photo courtesy of MakeGrowLab

Josh and Roza are currently in the middle of patenting the SCOBY Packaging material and process, with plans to move to a new facility by the end of the year. “Here we are currently conducting several tests to make sure we can deliver the best material to the world,” Josh told CleanTechnica in an email. “Without a large production facility, this material can be more expensive than plastic. For this reason and the high demand, we will be opening up a facility at the end of the year.” We’ll just have to be patient a little bit longer before we can give SCOBY a try.

Photo courtesy of MakeGrowLab

Cost is one of the main obstacles for most startups and companies seeking to disrupt the stronghold of traditional plastic. Generally, biodegradable plastics cost more to make than PET plastic, and it will take a while for the demand to be high enough to make them competitive. Finding an affordable and effective biodegradable plastic to take on the status quo is an important part of the solution to the planet’s plastic litter problems.

Photo courtesy of MakeGrowLab

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Written By

Erika is a writer and artist based in Berlin. She is passionate about sharing stories of climate change and cleantech initiatives worldwide. Whether it’s transforming the fashion, food, or engineering industries, there’s an opportunity and responsibility for us all to do better. In addition to contributing to CleanTechnica, Erika is the Web and Social Media Editor at LOLA Magazine and writes regularly about art and culture.


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