Eat Me: Edible Mushroom Eats Plastic Trash

A new kind of edible mushroom that grows on plastic waste while digesting and eliminating plastic toxins from the environment could go some distance in alleviating two of today’s most pressing environmental problems: the millions of tonnes of plastic waste that enter the ecosystem each year and the scarcity technology to deal with extreme farming conditions.

Developed by Livin Studio in collaboration with researchers from the University of Utrecht, these plastic-eating mushrooms are grown within a prototypical ‘growth sphere’ called the Fungi Mutarium. To begin the process, plastic trash is steralized with UV light in order to kick-start its degradation. The plastic is then placed within cups made of agar – a seaweed-based gelatin subsitute that acts as a nutrient base for fungi when mixed with starch and sugar. The plastic-filled cups are set inside the growth sphere and drops of fungi are added. The fungi then proceed to grow while digesting the plastic – along with with entire agar cup – leaving an edible mushroom where there was once plastic waste.

The researchers worked with two common fungi sources in their experiements: the Schizophyllum commune (the ‘Split Gill’ mushroom) and Pleurotus ostreatus (the ‘Oyster’ mushroom). And while further food-safety tests are required before these mushrooms are launched on a larger scale, it appears that the mushrooms not only break down plastic but also do not seem to store the plastic within their biomass, thus making them safe for human consumption. By comparison, mushrooms that break down metals store metal toxins and are therefore inedible.

And what do these trash eating mushrooms taste like? Apparently like regular mushrooms. However, the researchers are working on recipes to give the agar cups a range of flavours including chocolate and peach.

More about this project here and watch a video of the mushrooms in action here.