Is it true that mushrooms can eat old cigarette butts?
Oyster mushrooms growing on a tree
Hey there! I have a couple of friends in class who are obsessed with mushrooms. They talk about all sorts of wild things, and sometimes I don't know what to believe!
The latest thing they've been saying is that mushrooms can be used to break down and consume old cigarette butts. It sounds pretty out there, but is it actually true?
Well, it turns out that there is some truth to what they're saying. Oyster mushrooms, in particular, have been shown to be effective at breaking down and consuming the toxic chemicals and plastics found in cigarette butts.
In fact, a recent trial in Australia successfully used oyster mushrooms to consume up to 1.2 million cigarette butts, which would have otherwise gone to landfills.
The Australian trial, which is being run by Fungi Solutions in collaboration with nonprofit organization No More Butts, involves training the mushrooms to recognize the cellulose acetate in the filters and slowly begin to eat it.
Oyster mushrooms send out long thin strands of white mycelium to explore their surroundings and gather nutrients, but eating a cigarette butt will be a new dining experience for them.
According to Amanda Morgan, founder and head of research and development at Fungi Solutions, the mushrooms are used to the cellulose, but other elements need to be introduced to them, similar to training a baby to eat.
Once the mushrooms break down the cigarette butts, they will have consumed the harmful microplastics in the filters, leaving behind a material that can be used to create other products, such as boxes to collect cigarette butts.
This could help to tackle the problem of cigarette butt litter, which is a major issue worldwide. According to environmental organization No More Butts, around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered globally each year.
If you’re interested, we have a lot more information about how Oyster mushrooms are a superstar when it comes to mycoremediation in general.
On top of that, Oyster mushrooms are delicious! One of our favorites in the kitchen.