A team of researchers in Europe have created a prototype device called The Fungi Mutarium which uses fungi to safely break down plastic and replace it with edible mushrooms.
The research team is comprised of two Vienna-based industrial designers and a number of researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
The device that they created harnesses the natural cleaning and purifying power of fungi, and creates a condition where the fungi can easily break down and absorb the trash, replacing it with more fungi.
The device has been described by some as a dome shaped incubator, which contains several pods that hold liquefied fungi sprouts. Thin strips of plastic are placed into the device, and after several weeks, there is no longer any trace of plastic.
“We were both really inspired about the idea that something digests plastic but then still creates edible biomass,” Katharina Unger, one of the researchers, told Motherboard.
“It starts off being very neutral, but it can also get a bit nutty and spicy in taste. It really depends on the strain, actually,” she said.
Unfortunately, much like many of the ground breaking technologies that are surfacing everyday, The Fungi Mutarium is still in its developmental stages.
The process currently takes a few weeks because they are trying to keep the system organic, and are concerned with some of the ethical issues involved with speeding up the process.
“We know that there’s potential to speed up this process simply by optimizing the processes around it: temperature, humidity, the perfect microclimate for this fungi to colonize the plastic material. Also, though it’s more controversial, there is genetic modification. What happens if you modify the organism so that it can process the materials more quickly?” Unger said.
The entire process that they currently use is laid out on The Fungi Mutarium website:
1) Plastic is UV treated in the “Activation Cylinder” placed on the bottom of the mutarium. UV light sterilizes the plastic and activates the degradation process of the plastic which makes it easier 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 couple of weeks, the ready-grown „FU“ can be taken out to be prepared and eaten.
John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.