Traditional plastics take anywhere from 20 to 1,000 years to break down naturally, often times blocking waterways and killing animals in the process. It’s for this reason that two industrial designers from Vienna have teamed up with a group of microbiologists from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands to create something called the Fungi Mutarium.
This Mutarium is a glass dome that houses several pods that contain bits and pieces of plastic within their cavities. These pods are made up of a combination of agar, sugar, and starch that serve as food to nourish the fungi that the Mutarium is designed to contain. Mycelia, which is the thread-like parts of a mushroom, is mixed into a liquid and then dropped into the pods.
As these mushrooms grow, they eat through both the pods and the pieces of plastic contained within them. Not only does this serve to drastically speed up the process of degrading plastic, it also creates an edible mushroom with a neutral taste.
Obviously, these small pods aren’t even close to being enough to solve the world’s plastic problem, especially considering that it still takes the mushrooms months to eat through the plastic, but they’re definitely a step in the right direction.
The team is currently looking for ways to speed up the degradation process by manipulating the temperature, humidity, and various other elements of the environment within the dome. They’ve also considered using genetic modifications to make the fungi grow faster, but they currently lack the necessary funding to do so.