Source: Livinstudio.com

Plastic-eating mushrooms: Growing food on toxic waste

Could this plastic-eating fungi be one solution for two of the world’s biggest crises — plastic waste and hunger?

Austrian design team cultivates plastic-eating mushrooms to combat hunger and pollution

Austrian design team Livin Studio has, in collaboration with Utrecht University, developed a novel fungi food product grown on plastic waste, along with a prototype incubator to grow it in, and even a range of unique culinary tools to eat it with.


Austrian scientists turn plastic waste into food Austrian designer Katharina Unger and her team, in collaboration with Utrecht University, has figured out how to harness the power of a rare fungus that can turn plastic into edible biomass. Source: Facebook/ATTN:

The FUNGI MUTARIUM: Growing food on toxic waste

Fungi Mutarium is a prototype system that grows edible fungal biomass, mainly mycelium—the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of fine white filaments—as a new food product. 

  • The fungi is cultivated on specifically designed agar shapes that the designers called "FU".  
  • Agar is a seaweed based gelatin substitute and acts, mixed with starch and sugar, as a nutrient base for the fungi. 
  • The "FUs" are filled with plastics. The fungi is then inserted, it digests the plastic and overgrows the whole substrate. 
  • The shape of the "FU" is designed so that it holds the plastic and to offer the fungi a lot of surface area to grow on. 

Its shape has been developed and inspired by mushrooms and other plants in nature. The user could easily be reminded of harvesting mushrooms in the wild when harvesting the "FUs".

Source: Livinstudio.com

Plastic is UV treated in the
The fungi mutarium is a complete system from plastic waste to edible “fu” Plastic is UV treated in the “Activation Cylinder” placed on the bottom of the mutarium. Plain “FU“ is placed in the mutarium’s Growth Sphere. UV-sterilized plastic is put into the “FU“, ready to be digested.”Macerate“ (fungi sprouts in liquid nutrient solution) are extracted with a pipette from the Fungi Nursery. After a couple of weeks, the ready-grown “FU“ can be taken out to be prepared and eaten. Source: Livinstudio.com

How the Fungi mutarium works

The Fungi Mutarium is a fully self-contained system from start to finish:
  1. Waste plastic is first UV treated in the "Activation Cylinder" placed on the bottom of the mutarium. UV light sterilises the plastic and activates the degradation process of the plastic which makes it more easily accessible for the fungi.  
  2. Plain “FU“ is placed in the mutarium´s Growth Sphere. This is done with pincers to work as sterile as possible.
  3. UV-sterilized plastic is put into the “FU“, ready to be digested.
  4. “Macerate“ (fungi sprouts in liquid nutrient solution) are extracted with a pipette from the Fungi Nursery.
  5. Extracted macerate is dropped into the “FUs“ to ignite the growing process.
  6. After a few of weeks, the ready-grown “FU“ can be taken out to be prepared and eaten.

Fungi Mutarium is a conceptual device It presents ongoing research and is currently not a commercially available product, but technological innovations such as this are urgently needed to address the critical issues of hunger and plastic waste. Source: Vimeo/Livinstudio

Technologies like this are needed to address the critical issues of hunger and plastic waste

WHY: Food production has to be revolutionised and more technologies are needed to farm under extreme environmental conditions. 

HOW: Scientific research has shown that fungi can degrade toxic and persistent waste materials such as plastics, converting them into edible fungal biomass. Livin Studio has been working with fungi named Schizophyllum Commune and Pleurotus Ostreatus. They are found throughout the world and can be seen on a wide range of timbers and many other plant-based substrates virtually anywhere in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia. Next to the property of digesting toxic waste materials, they are also commonly eaten. 

As the fungi break down the plastic ingredients and don’t store them (like they do with metals) they are safely edible.

Source: Livinstudio.com

Bet You Didn’t Know Mushrooms Could Do All This You probably didn't know mushrooms could be used to construct buildings and cure diseases. Mushrooms are being tested in innovative and imaginative ways to help society. Engineers, medical researchers, and designers are utilising the natural abilities of various fungi for antibiotics, building materials, water filtration, toxic waste cleanup, pest abatement, textiles, and other purposes. Source: YouTube/NationalGeographic

9 REASONS REASONS TO REFUSE SINGLE-USE PLASTIC + 9 TIPS FOR LIVING WITH LESS OF IT

We need a massive shift in our collective behaviour and we all have the power to make change when we own our actions and their consequences.

Support Now