Biomaterials to breathe new life into vacant Cryovac plant

Sep 3, 2013

A young company from upstate New York, that manufactures packaging materials with agricultural waste is moving into an empty facility in Cedar Rapids. Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren reports.

The old Cryovac building on the Southwest side of Cedar Rapids has been vacant for almost five years, ever since parent company Sealed Air closed the 250-person food packaging division. The announcement came  about six months after the 2008 flood.

But now, new life is coming into the building—in the form of fungus.

A startup called Ecovative uses agricultural waste to create biodegradable packaging materials. Employees are slowly beginning to set up operations inside.

Communications director Sam Harrington says this facility will use corn stalks sourced locally. The stalks are ground up and combined with mycelium, a fungus, which binds the material together to form a Styrofoam-like substance, called myco-foam.

"We work with local farmers to pre-purchase their corn stalks. When they’re ready to harvest their corn they’re getting a second value stream from what was previously considered a waste," Harrington said.

Harrington says the new facility will greatly increase the company’s production, but he did not specify how much.