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Mushrooms that eat plastic!


Believe it or not, mushrooms have a ton of uses and applications in everyday life! Some are edible, but others can be used in different industries. Some mushrooms can be turned into building material, like drywall, and used to construct houses. Others are being used to make new foods like impossible meat; Ecovative, a mycelium technology company, has used mushrooms to create alternatives to pork. Mushrooms are also present in biofuels, beauty and cosmetics products, medicine, packaging, and so much more! And relatively recently, it's been discovered that some mushrooms can even grow by feeding on plastic.


Back in 2012, researchers from Yale did a trek through the Amazon rainforest. On their journey, they discovered a type of fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, that could grow by consuming exclusively polyurethane, the base molecule in many plastics. The mushrooms grew by taking this molecule, and converting it back into organic material. I don't know how they found this out but I believe this discovery has huge potential in the coming years as a way to help reduce the amount of plastic waste on the planet.


Pestalotiopsis microspora


Pestalotiopsis microspora could be helpful in landfills and breaking down plastics. Plastic leaks poisonous chemicals into the environment when it breaks down. Using PM could be critical to stopping these poisons from harming the Earth anymore than it already has.


Since 2012, over 50 other mushroom species have been discovered to be able to grow by feeding on plastic. Some of these include the widely popular oyster mushroom, the split gill mushroom, and Aspergillus tubingensis. Researchers believe that edible mushrooms grown this way retain their edibility, however there is not a consensus on this or enough research to be conclusive on this.


For example, Katherina Unger of Livin Design partnered with Utrecht University in the Netherlands to study the edibility of oyster mushrooms grown using plastic. They concluded that the mushroom was still 100% edible, even after having consumed plastic. On the opposing side, the University of Rajasthan in India decided that the mushrooms consume too much toxic material to be edible, concluding that they are not edible.


Article excerpt re-posted from UP Cycle Design

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