Plastic-Munching Mushrooms and Other Routes to Sustainability

A Guide to Reduce Our Impact Through Recycling, Upcycling and Supporting Mycorestoration.

A. Grace

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A pristine jewel blue ocean wave adorned with snow-white foam.
Image Credit: A. Grace (Aly Pictured It)

Oceans are vital to our survival. They regulate our climate, produce over half the world’s oxygen, drive many economies, and provide us with ingredients for food and medicine. Yet, while we reap the benefits, ocean environments are suffering.

Annually, 8 million tons of plastic wind up in the ocean, creating choking hazards for wildlife, like birds and turtles. Worse, it is breaking down into microplastics, which some animals may mistake for food and ingest. For example, there have been documented cases of sea turtles starving to death because their stomachs are full of plastic.

Humans are also eating plastic. Microplastics are finding their way into our food and water supplies. According to plasticoceans.org, we may eat 40 pounds of it in our lifetimes, or the equivalent of one Lego every week. Scientists are not yet sure what this means for our health, but it becomes more apparent every day that we need to make some changes.

How Can We Reduce Our Impact?

Support Mushroom Farmers and Researchers

Mushrooms are the most outstanding organisms but often fly under the radar. Yet, these unassuming lifeforms are crucial to the health of many ecosystems, including old-growth forests. Even better, they can break down pollutants harmful to the environment in a process mycologists call mycoremediation or mycorestoration.

For example, Paul Stamets and Battelle Laboratories discovered that oyster mushrooms can break down oil, leaving only non-toxic components. The mushrooms were free of petroleum, and insects were later able to consume them and spread their spores.

Researchers have discovered that mushrooms can break down bio-hazards, heavy metals, and plastics. You can support efforts to use mushrooms in remediation by learning to grow your own at home or by supporting companies like Fungi Perfecti.

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A. Grace

Grace writes fiction & articles on various topics in the western U.S. She is also a photographer, dog mom, and nature lover! Buy her a coffee: Ko-fi.com/agrace