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WVU Tech student patents product to replace plastic cups [WVVA]

BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) As more companies move to replace plastic from their products, one WVU Tech student is taking the national spotlight with a new patented product. 

Nima Shahabshamir of Lewisburg said it all started when he was growing up watching his grandmother work with mushrooms in her garden. A light went off. 

"I had a lot of dedication and trial and error, but it was very rewarding to grow these products for the first time."

His invention? Cups and packing materials made out of mushrooms. "Styrofoam is a brother or sister from plastics that won't biodegrade and can't recycle." 

The product is durable and withstands the test of time, he explained. "Then you can just put it into the soil or compost pile. You don't have to worry when you throw these away."

In addition to receiving numerous grants and awards for the project he calls 'Future Fungi,' Shahabshamir was recently chosen to represent the United States at the Commission for Environment Cooperation's Youth Innovation Challenge. From there, he was asked to present the idea to then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. 

"My ultimate goal is to focus on other products that will have benefits and doesn't rely on a fast production level." 

Shahabshamir hope is that the product will eventually help reduce the massive amounts of plastic that end up in the water, soil, and human bodies. 

Future Fungi recently first won a $500 research grant in the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority Common Grounds Competition in 2017. After that, the project landed a $10,000 grant in the prestigious Robert C. Byrd Institute Vanguard Agriculture Competition. That funding helped ShahabShahmir with product development, business coaching and the patent for Future Fungi.