Case Study: Mushrooms as a leather replacement

As I complete my Personal MBA in the Circular Economy, I am exploring and building my inventory of practical ideas that could or have been commercially applied. Ideas that target Circular Systems, Energy, Water, Waste and Wealth – ideas that focus on using the waste of one process as a valuable input to another.

Mushrooms offer a waste positive solution to creating leather. This means that they consume one of our most abundant wastes – agricultural waste, such corn cobs and sawdust. Amazingly mushrooms can turn this waste into useful products like leather.

The benefit is multiplied as it not only consumes the waste, but also acts as a substitute for the higher impact of rearing animals, which is well documented by various campaigners. The mushroom “leather” can be grown in in two weeks, rather than in the two years it would take for cows to be reared, as mushrooms grow exponentially. Simply put animals need water (15,000 litres for each kilo of meat), land and have a heavy greenhouse impact. Similarly synthetic leathers can cause a negative impact to the planet as they require a lot of water and chemical usage.

This mushroom leather substitute can have different strengths, ranging from lamb strength to deer strength, by manipulating conditions such as food, temperature, light and gas.

This is just the beginning, as different parts of the mushrooms meet different criteria, such as some parts are hard, soft, porous and edible. All with their different practical commercial uses.

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