Australian scientists are training oyster mushrooms to “eat” tobacco butts, reports ABC News.
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.
During the trial, the mushrooms slowly recognize the cellulose acetate in the filter of the cigarette butt and begin to eat it.
At the end of the process, the mushrooms will have eaten the microplastics in the cigarette butts’ filters, leaving behind a material that can be used to create other products, such as boxes to collect cigarette butts.
“They [the mushrooms] are used to the cellulose, but we need to introduce the other elements, just like training a baby to eat,” Morgan said.
“From there, you can take the culture and grow the next one.”
According to environmental organization No More Butts, about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year.
Morgan aims to set up a remediation facility in Wollongong where butts can be transported to, treated and turned into usable materials.
The trial is expected to take up to two years.