Fungi Co presented workshops and information sessions for Science Week 2017 @ACTion on mycoremediation to school students and the general public on the power of fungi to transform paper wastes into compost and mushrooms. This photo shows white oyster mushrooms growing on shredded office paper.
So what is Mycopower?
Mycopower is our name for the power of oyster mushrooms, (Pleurotus Spp.) a genus of fungi, to transform wastes into useful and nontoxic substances. This process also called mycoremediation. Myco refers to fungi and remediation refers to fixing a problem.
Why use mycoremediation?
Mycoremediation with oyster mushrooms can be used to break down plant-based wastes like paper and cardboard into compost for the garden. It is also used to change toxic substances like oil refinery wastes and dyes into nontoxic substances.
How does mycoremeditation work?
Oyster mushrooms have fine root like structures called hyphae that connect together forming mycelium. Hyphae excrete enzymes that break down large plant molecules like lignin and cellulose into smaller molecules that the fungi absorb and use to grow. If the oyster mushrooms are living on paper then the lignin and cellulose in the paper is broken down into smaller useful molecules for the fungi. These same enzymes can change some toxic molecules into non-toxic molecules as well.
What do I do?
Use oyster mushroom mycelium, also called spawn, and mix with paper/cardboard wastes and a little water so the mix is damp in a clean container with some holes for gas exchange and let the mushrooms do the work.
What will happen?
Over time the white fluffy mycelium will grow all over the paper and the hyphae will excrete enzymes that digest and change the paper into crumbly soft material that can be used as compost. Mushrooms can also grow when the conditions are right -when there the paper has been digested, if there is enough air flow to provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide, and the mix is slightly moist.
What can go wrong?
Oyster mushrooms are living organisms and need water, plant based material to grow on and oxygen. Green or black moulds can grow if the mix gets contaminated, is too wet or too rich in nutrients. If the mixture is too dry or doesn’t have enough airflow then the mycoremediation process can be slowed or stopped.