Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mushrooms As Recyclers

I saw a headline that read "Mushrooms Can Break Down 90% of Diaper Materials Within 2 Months" and followed it to a post on Treehugger.

It was already known that mushrooms can be great at breaking down pollutants. WE also know that disposable diapers are slow-degrading poop-containers that are filling up landfills.

What about a kind of mushroom that feasts on diapers? Researchers at the Metropolitan University in Mexico City seem to have followed this divergent thinking and found some.

In an article published in the journal Waste Management, Alethia Vázquez-Morillas describes her research in cultivating the right type of mushroom. She discovered that certain species can break down 90% of the material they are made of within two months. Within four, they are degraded completely.

What is more, she says, despite the unsavory diet of the fungi in question, Pleurotus ostreatus (better known as oyster mushrooms) are still safe to eat. (To prove the point she has eaten them. I think I would be more hesitant.)

Oyster mushrooms are good at this job because they feed on cellulose, the main material used in disposable diapers. In the wild, the Oyster mushrooms grow on dead trees, so they have the enzymes to break down cellulose.

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

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