Saturday, June 22, 2024

Young innovators from TIP seek to reinvent takeout cutlery

With the goal of reducing the impact that disposable utensils have on the environment, a team of senior high school (SHS) students from Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) Manila is developing a sustainable alternative using the organic filaments of a fungus called “mycelium”.

Members of Team Ensio pose for a group photo

“We will use it as a binder and we chose it because, as we have found in our research, mycelium is often called nature’s biggest recycler,” Mary Nicole Alejandrino, a Grade 12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) student, said.

According to Scientific American, mycelium is what “mushrooms are made of” and, when harnessed using our existing technologies, can help “replace plastics that are rapidly accumulating in the environment.”

Alejandrino has been working with her fellow STEM students – Rayvhen Dominique Rada, Paulo Luis Bautista and Will Andrew Mercado – since they were in Grade 11 to try and do just that. They are going to create mycelium-based biodegradable cutlery under Project “BioHoshi.”

Together, they formed Team Ensio, which recently won a research grant worth P451,000 from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in its 5th Young Innovators Program under the mentorship of Ms. Ellaysa Esplago and TIP Manila SHS principal Dr. Glorielyn Camerino.

Esplago, the chief project adviser, said the team has been given a 10-month timeframe to develop a prototype of food grade single-use utensils made of mycelium. They are currently in the experimentation stage of the project after finalizing a memorandum of agreement with DOST. 

“Aside from the main objective of the team, which is to help combat the unending and alarming waste management problem, another goal for us – hopefully, when the project becomes successful–is to make this as a startup,” said Esplago.

Camerino is proud that their students have developed keen interest in research and development this early. “They should not be afraid of trying to showcase their talents and to show that they are innovators,” she advised.

The Young Innovators Program is an annual project of the DOST in collaboration with the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development to support promising students who engage in scientific exploration in the said sectors.

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