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These pollution-fighting mushrooms eat plastic, and you can eat them

Katharina Unger/Livin Studio
The future of mushrooms?
By Sonali Kohli
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Feeling guilty about all the plastic you’ve been throwing out, and what it’s doing to the environment? Well it might soon be possible to eat that guilt away—or at least, eat some plastic.

That’s what a recent contraption from Livin Studio makes possible. Designers partnered with scientists at Utrecht University to create what they call the “Fungi Mutarium,” which uses circular molds made of agar—an edible, seaweed-based gelatin-like substance that fungi can grow on—to hold plastic strips and a type of fungi that decomposes plastic. Before the plastic goes into the growth sphere, it is decontaminated using UV light. After a few weeks, the fungi, derived from two kinds of mushroom, have broken down the plastic bits and become an ”edible fungal biomass,” as the Livin Studio site calls it.

The end result might not sound all that appetizing, but researchers also experimented with different flavors that can be infused into the agar mold, according to a Livin Studios video released a few weeks ago. “It starts off being very neutral, but it can also get a bit nutty and spicy in taste. It really depends on the strain, actually,” designer Katharina Unger told Vice.

As Wired points out, the science here is sound, but the widespread implications are more questionable—it’s not super likely that people will start flocking to mushroom-plastic-agar circles for their next meal.

Still, fungi, with their penchant for breaking down all sorts of materials, have been enlisted to devour other troublesome substances, from the smallpox virus to sewage. This 2008 TED Talk lays out six mycological solutions to the world’s problems.

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