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Using Oysters to Compost Plastics

Tony Elswick


Joined: Aug 10, 2011
Posts: 73
I am currently writing a paper in conjunction with my experiment to develop a strain of oysters to eat through the incomprehensible amount of plastic we see these days.

If anybody else is interested, I am planning to do the following:

Set up an Inoculation Chamber where I will inoculate live cultures of Oyster Mushrooms (Pleuroteus Djamor) into agar media inside petri dishes.

I will isolate the best rhizomorphic patterns to transfer a wedge of the media to another dish until I get a strain that grows rapidly.

I will then transfer the best strain to a substrate medium and use various amounts of plastics shredded into the jars with woodchips.


some jars will grow better than others, I will use the best shrooms I see working off of the Plastics because SHROOMS WILL MUTATE AND THE NEXT GENERATION WILL EAT MORE PCB's.

S I will then start the system over and develop a strain of a better adapted mushroom... the plan is to develop a strain powerful enough to compsot plastics in a reasonable time for composting to become leisure.

I will continue to post my experiment and update with pics from time to time... stay tuned

I will be using the fastest growing Oyster mushroom:

Pleurotus djamor
Pink Oyster

________________________________________

This species encompasses a complex of brilliantly pink Oyster mushrooms. The pink Oyster varieties are the most common occurring wild Pleurotus in pan-tropical climatic zones of the world. Known for its speed to fruiting, ability to flourish on a wide variety of base materials, and high temperature tolerance, this species is so aggressive as to colonize unpasteurized bulk substrates before competitors can flourish. When growing this mushroom en masse, albino clusters sometimes form.

Mycelial Characteristics: White at first, casting a longitudinally linear mycelium, often over-run with long, diverging rhizomorphs, eventually cottony with maturity, and aerial. Most strains soon develop strong pinkish tones, especially as the mycelium matures, at and around the sites of primordia formation. Flaming pink primordia often form as cluster colonies along the inside periphery of the petri dish and/or around the site of inoculation. As grain (rye) matures, pink rhizomorphs and mycelia can predominate. A milky gray metabolic exudate collects at the bottom of the incubation containers.
Microscopic Features: From the same fruiting pink spores are collected from pink mushrooms, and light beige spores from mushrooms that were originally pink but faded to cream beige.

Suggested Agar Culture Media: Malt Yeast Peptone Agar (MYPA), Potato Dextrose Yeast Agar (PDYA), Oatmeal Yeast Agar (OMYA), or Dog Food Agar (DFA)
Spawn Media: Grain spawn for all three generations.
Substrates for Fruiting: Hardwood sawdust, cereal straw, corn waste, coffee residue, cotton waste, banana fronds, palm debris, and sugar cane bagasse. One formula employed be Brazilian growers calls for the proportionate mixing of 100 lbs. sugar cane/ 8 lbs. rice bran/ 3 lbs. rice straw/ 2 lbs calcium carbonate. The mixture is mixed, wetted, and pasteurized at 140* F for 2-4 hours. Bano et al. found that this mushroom (as "P. flabellatus" gave the highest yields when cotton seed powder was added at 132 g. per kg. or dry wheat straw. The total mass of the mushrooms grown was 85% over the yields from unsupplemented wheat straw. Interestingly, the protein content of the dried mushrooms also rose to 38%.

Royse and Zaki found that the dual addition of the commercially available supplements Spawn Mate II and Fast Break at a combined rate of 168 g. per kg. of wheat straw substantially enhanced yields of "P. flabellatus". In these tests, biological efficiency increased from 22% to 77% in a 28 day harvest period. It is suspected that the yields of other Oyster species would be similarly improved.

Yield Potentials: Given good crop management, biological efficiency rated at 75-150%, largely dependent on the age of the fruibody at harvest. Some strains of this species are equally as productive, in terms of biological efficiency, as the most vigorous strains of P. pulmonarous and P. ostreatus.
---Growth Parameters---
Spawn Run:
 Incubation Temperature: 75-85* F (24-30* C)
 Relative Humidity: 95-100%
 Duration: 7-10 days CO2: >5000 ppm
 Fresh Air Exchanges: 0-1 per hour
 Light Requirements: n/a
Primordia Formation:
 Initiation Temperature: 65-75* F (18-25* C)
 Relative Humidity: 95-100%
 Duration: 2-4 days
 CO2: 500-1000 ppm
 Fresh Air Exchanges: 5-8 per hour
 Light Requirements: 750-1500 lux
Fruitbody Development:
 Temperature: 70-85* F (20-30* C)
 Relative Humidity: 85_90%
 Duration: 3-5 days
 CO2: 500-1500 ppm
 Fresh Air Exchanges: 5-8 per hour
 Light Requirements: 750-1500 lux
Cropping Cycle:
 2 crops, 7-10 days apart







jacque greenleaf
volunteer

Joined: Jan 21, 2009
Posts: 464
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
Oh, please do. I just hate it that some things I have to buy come in plastic packaging. Do you think one strain of plastic-eating shrooms will eat all kinds of plastic?
Tony Elswick


Joined: Aug 10, 2011
Posts: 73
Yes.  Oyster mushrooms (Pluerotus Ostreatus) will eat all plastics, but it may take months to get through hard plastic... that is why if you inoculate them on a petri dish and isolate the best growth you can clone them to other dishes and create a super strain that eats real fast and is more resilient... you can create generation after generation to consume more than the last at a faster rate... that is why Paul Stamets is advocating people to take the individual incentive to do this and I hope it works...

i'll keep you posted!
Christopher G Williams


Joined: Sep 24, 2011
Posts: 63
Location: Ossineke, MI
    
    2
I've had an experience where a regular commercial strain of oyster mushroom has eaten through a woven plastic feed bag containing straw. I inoculated the straw in the bag in early spring and by fall it had nearly consumed the entire feed bag.

This is a very interesting experiment you are embarking on. I look forward to hearing more about it in future.


www.michiganmushrooms.net Medicinal mushrooms, Mushroom products and more!
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3087
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
how's this project going, Tony? any photograph or progress to share? problems?


find religion! church
kiva! hyvä! iloinen! pikkumaatila
get stung! beehives
be hospitable! host-a-hive
be antisocial! facespace
jacque greenleaf
volunteer

Joined: Jan 21, 2009
Posts: 464
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
Feed bags! Yes! I am so gonna do that.
Hilda Graetzer


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 1
Hi! This sounds very interesting. Do you rip the plastic apart? which is the size of the plastic you use to grow mushrooms?
In case the plastic contain toxic elements does the mushrooms have some residuals (in the part we eat)?
Do you have a video documenting this? Thanks
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679201/fungi-discovered-in-the-amazon-will-eat-your-plastic


"When there is no life in the soil it is just dirt."
"MagicDave"
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Are the mushrooms actually breaking down the long chains of molecules into carbon and oxygen, or are they just breaking the plastic into tiny dangerous particles? What I'm asking is - what exactly are the mushrooms breaking the plastics down INTO. What molecules are the mushrooms turning the plastics into? And do they do it completely, or is there a toxic residue?






Idle dreamer

Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
It is my understanding, Tyler, that they turn the hydrocarbons into carbohydrates. For the oyster mushrooms to be able to grow on plastics, they necessarily need to break it down into useable compounds. The specific processes, though, I, too, would like to know.

-CK
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Here is the abstract from the study.
http://aem.asm.org/content/77/17/6076
Alan Stuart


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 42
Dave Bennett wrote:http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679201/fungi-discovered-in-the-amazon-will-eat-your-plastic


If anyone knows how to get spore cultures of this fungi, we all need to work together to breed and distribute it free of charge to the permaculture community so that we can decompose plastic waste in the world.
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Alan Stuart wrote:
Dave Bennett wrote:http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679201/fungi-discovered-in-the-amazon-will-eat-your-plastic


If anyone knows how to get spore cultures of this fungi, we all need to work together to breed and distribute it free of charge to the permaculture community so that we can decompose plastic waste in the world.

I doubt that either spawn or spores can be found since this specie was only recently discovered in the Amazon rain forest. The research paper was published last July (2011). Paul Stamets needs to get a spore print and propagate it. That would be a good idea in my opinion.
Duncan Dalby


Joined: Jan 22, 2012
Posts: 36
Location: England, Midlands.
Alan Stuart wrote:Paul Stamets needs to get a spore print and propagate it. That would be a good idea in my opinion.


I would be amazed if he isn't working on it already.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
I would be interested in knowing how fungi propagate, and if it is possible to cross strains in a manner which would allow for the selection of desired traits in the manner we are familiar with animal or plant husbandry. I'd also love to know if there are any salt-resistant edible fungi varieties, and if these could be bred to compost plastics. There is a lot of plastic floating around in the Pacific, and if you could gather it all up as a floating mat and innoculate it, if it did nothing more than clean up the plastic and provide a non-plastic substitute for those animals that would have ingested it, it would have a great beneficial impact on every environment it affects. I'm not done sifting through the material I have available to me on the subject, but I would greatly appreciate any shortcuts anyone can provide.

-CK
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Chris Kott wrote:I would be interested in knowing how fungi propagate, and if it is possible to cross strains in a manner which would allow for the selection of desired traits in the manner we are familiar with animal or plant husbandry. I'd also love to know if there are any salt-resistant edible fungi varieties, and if these could be bred to compost plastics. There is a lot of plastic floating around in the Pacific, and if you could gather it all up as a floating mat and innoculate it, if it did nothing more than clean up the plastic and provide a non-plastic substitute for those animals that would have ingested it, it would have a great beneficial impact on every environment it affects. I'm not done sifting through the material I have available to me on the subject, but I would greatly appreciate any shortcuts anyone can provide.

-CK
I have experience with altering yeasts to produce strains that are incredibly alcohol tolerant. Since yeasts are the most basic form of fungi and can be coaxed to change I would imagine that developing mycelium fungi to change their properties is possible but adding the caveat that people like Paul Stamets have been researching fungi for 40 years and would more than likely be the best source for that information. My yeast propagation is fairly easy because I am specifically preserving varieties that have specific properties with increased alcohol tolerance. That is not as complicated as developing more specific properties. I started out with a variety with specific qualities and then increased the ethanol tolerance. Mycelium present more challenges than yeasts.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Dave,

Thanks for the info. To what purpose would you put such yeasts? To produce more potent wine/beer/cider, as in for human consumption, or to make ethanol as a fuel source more efficiently? This is an area of much interest to me, both, that is. If you have any culinary observations to pass on, please do.

-CK
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Chris Kott wrote:Dave,

Thanks for the info. To what purpose would you put such yeasts? To produce more potent wine/beer/cider, as in for human consumption, or to make ethanol as a fuel source more efficiently? This is an area of much interest to me, both, that is. If you have any culinary observations to pass on, please do.

-CK
I am a Mead maker, a Brewer but I mostly developed an extremely alcohol tolerant strain to maximize my yield when making ethanol fuel. It is really more of a "sorting technique" since I harvest at the end of a ferment. I believe that because my techniques are the same for Mead, Beer or Ethanol the environment starts out sterile. The yeast that isn't killed by 20% alcohol gets to have a feast and is also rewarded with a blast of oxygen too. My yeast colony started out as Wyeast 4347 Eau De Vie that is advertised as tolerant to 21% ABV but it really becomes extremely lethargic around 18% or it used to until I started harvesting what was still alive and reusing it. Over time the tolerance has improved. I do keep my Mead yeast separated from my Ethanol yeast. They started out as a single colony but have been separated since I finished building my reflux still because one colony only ever sees Honey and the other sees a variety of sugar sources.
Tannim Kyraxx


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 24
so any update on this project?
itai goldman


Joined: Sep 05, 2012
Posts: 1
any updates?
very interested in this for a while. digested plastics can be used to replace Styrofoam (http://www.ecovativedesign.com/) thus breaking free of the cycle of plastics and moving back to natures way...
William Jack


Joined: May 16, 2013
Posts: 16
I'd love to see updates as well. I've been wondering about this for years now. (using mushrooms to break down oil products, not this thread which i only just discovered)
John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 1978
Location: Augusta, GA
    
  61
In reading this thread, I see a lack of an appreciation about how ubiquitous fungi actually are. They are everywhere in the soil, and their spores are everywhere in the air. Tiny little sacks of DNA, a few microns in diameter, floating on the air currents and waiting to land on a suitable substrate to germinate and grow. Not every one will make it, which is why fungal fruiting bodies (commonly called mushrooms) make lots and lots and lots of spores. Some giant puffballs can release trillions of viable spores.

Also, fungi are generalists when it comes to decomposition. They are not very selective when it comes to what kind of dead organic matter they can eat. They may be selective when it comes to mycorrhizal associations, they may be selective when it comes to infecting live plants and animals, but for non-living matter, they don't have to be selective, there is a small list of general categories that they can decompose: lignin, cellulose and other carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

So this idea that Paul Stamets is the only source of a unique mushroom that has unique spores that can break down heretofore recalcitrant compounds, well that's just good PR for Paul Stamets. I can go to my favorite mushroom hunting grounds near my house and find mushrooms that could be cultured and sub-cultured to decompose plastics.

Why don't you hear more about this? Why isn't this being done? There are very few mycologists spread far too thin, and this is a big, untapped area of research. There is still plenty of work for mycologists identifying new species, studying their metabolism, developing diagnostics and anti-fungals, studying their growth and symbioses, that using them for bioremediation goes relatively unfunded.

To answer a couple more questions upthread:
Yes, there are salt tolerant fungi, you can find them in samples of muck from salt marshes. They are not very plentiful though, since those are usually anaerobic conditions (and fungi need O2).

Fungal sex (exchanging genes with another individual) takes place when the spore starts dividing. Fungi do everything backwards from animals: animals ingest food then digest it; fungi digest food, then ingest it; Animals are born, grow up, then have sex and reproduce; Fungi are born, have sex, go on an enormous growth phase, then when they have exhausted all their food, they reproduce. The first thing spores do when they put out their first hyphae is look for a mate and swap some DNA.
K Nelfson


Joined: Nov 07, 2012
Posts: 124
Would fungi eating plastic introduce chemicals into the food chain? I'm thinking that the fungi are near the base of the food chain and anything they pick up might be concentrated in other critters.

John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 1978
Location: Augusta, GA
    
  61
K Nelfson wrote:Would fungi eating plastic introduce chemicals into the food chain? I'm thinking that the fungi are near the base of the food chain and anything they pick up might be concentrated in other critters.


Fungi, along with bacteria, are the absolute base of the food chain. But these organisms at the base don't pass stuff along like in the case of an insect ingests some DDT, it gets eaten by a praying mantis, the praying mantis gets eaten by a lizard, the lizard gets eaten by a robin, the robin gets eaten by an owl and then the owl has problems with egg laying because of the DDT. No, when a strand of fungal hyphae comes across the bug carcass laced with DDT, is secrets oxidative enzymes to break down the insect's chitinous exoskeleton, its proteins, carbs, and fats down into simpler building blocks. When this enzyme hits the DDT, the phenyl groups are oxidized to benzoic acid and the chlorinated ethane is oxidized to acetic acid plus chloride ion. If the fungus has no use for the chloride ion, it will translocate it away from where it is growing and get rid of it.

To answer your question fully would require some radioisotope experiments to find out what the fungal mycelium does with the molecules it tears apart. What atoms end up where. A little of that has been done, but a lot remains unanswered.
Jay Shinn


Joined: Jul 05, 2013
Posts: 15
    
    1
I have started my own simple study...

I soaked a bunch of mycelium substrate in water and collected the exudates.
I then filled a jar with plastic bags and poured in the mycelium tea, and left it in the sun like suntea.
After a few months the tea has become a black-red color, I planned on giving it six months before disturbing it.
Landon Sunrich


Joined: Jul 09, 2013
Posts: 1026
Location: Western Washington
    
  26
John Elliott wrote:In reading this thread, I see a lack of an appreciation about how ubiquitous fungi actually are. They are everywhere in the soil, and their spores are everywhere in the air. Tiny little sacks of DNA, a few microns in diameter, floating on the air currents and waiting to land on a suitable substrate to germinate and grow. Not every one will make it, which is why fungal fruiting bodies (commonly called mushrooms) make lots and lots and lots of spores. Some giant puffballs can release trillions of viable spores.

Also, fungi are generalists when it comes to decomposition. They are not very selective when it comes to what kind of dead organic matter they can eat. They may be selective when it comes to mycorrhizal associations, they may be selective when it comes to infecting live plants and animals, but for non-living matter, they don't have to be selective, there is a small list of general categories that they can decompose: lignin, cellulose and other carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

So this idea that Paul Stamets is the only source of a unique mushroom that has unique spores that can break down heretofore recalcitrant compounds, well that's just good PR for Paul Stamets. I can go to my favorite mushroom hunting grounds near my house and find mushrooms that could be cultured and sub-cultured to decompose plastics.

Why don't you hear more about this? Why isn't this being done? There are very few mycologists spread far too thin, and this is a big, untapped area of research. There is still plenty of work for mycologists identifying new species, studying their metabolism, developing diagnostics and anti-fungals, studying their growth and symbioses, that using them for bioremediation goes relatively unfunded.

To answer a couple more questions upthread:
Yes, there are salt tolerant fungi, you can find them in samples of muck from salt marshes. They are not very plentiful though, since those are usually anaerobic conditions (and fungi need O2).

Fungal sex (exchanging genes with another individual) takes place when the spore starts dividing. Fungi do everything backwards from animals: animals ingest food then digest it; fungi digest food, then ingest it; Animals are born, grow up, then have sex and reproduce; Fungi are born, have sex, go on an enormous growth phase, then when they have exhausted all their food, they reproduce. The first thing spores do when they put out their first hyphae is look for a mate and swap some DNA.


John - this is something I have tried to get into. My problem (and why I'm not doing more of it) is sterile culture technique. Like I built a glovebox and everything. I must have read 'mushroom cultivator' through like 6 times. I have had zero (that's 0) success in isolating wild strands from tissue. And very limited success getting a pure culture from wild spores. Sometimes its just easier to use other peoples expertise. Not that I wouldn't keep trying. But I'm done banging my head against that wall. At least without some sort of support.


Pursuing a masters of edge-ology @ the 'get the f#*k off my land' permaculture homestead
Uwe Wiedemann


Joined: Jul 08, 2013
Posts: 23
    
    4
Dave Bennett wrote:Here is the abstract from the study.
http://aem.asm.org/content/77/17/6076


Damn, this fungus lives on polyurethane as sole substrate, and under anaerobic conditions! I don't know which of both is more surprising, since fungi usually need oxygen just like animals. I mean, there is oxygen IN the polymer, but the fungus has to free it first by breaking the polymer down.

Also I'm kind of glad, that this fungus lives only in the tropics, because lots of houses here (Germany) are isolated with panels made from PUR foam. This fungus could eat up the temperature isolation of houses, if it has sufficient water supply (ok, usually the isolation is kept dry, maybe other fungi would take the opportunity, too).
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://permies.com/battery
 
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