Mushroom waste turned into cosmetics and bioplastics

Mushroom cultivation results in more than three billion kilograms of waste per year in the EU. Now, researchers are transforming this waste into innovative products, such as foods, bioplastics and fertilisers.

For every kilogram of mushrooms produced, about three kilograms of soil-like material containing straw, manure and peat is left behind, according to an article from the EU Research & Innovation Magazine. In the EU, this results in more than 3 billion kilograms of waste per year.

Although the waste is rich in organic matter, and therefore useful as compost, used mushroom substrate—the soil-like material—contains a lot of water, which makes it heavy and unprofitable to transport, writes the article. The majority of it ends up in landfill.

Now, it could be poured into innovation. Dr. Bart van der Burg, Director of Innovation at BioDetection Systems in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and his team are aiming to extract components such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats from the mushroom waste, and transform these into novel foods and bioplastics.

Extracted mushroom protein is also of interest for vegetarian burgers and in cosmetics, in which chitin, extracted from mushrooms, acts as a natural preservative.

The team thinks mushroom waste could be reduced by up to 40% with their products. But they are also investigating other uses, such as composting and biogas production, which utilise all the soil-like leftovers from mushroom cultivation and could increase the amount of waste that is repurposed, writes the article.

Image credit: Presetbase Lightroom Presets via Unsplash

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