SciFest National Final 2023

Stand 4

Mycoremediation: An Investigation into the Ability of Oyster Mushroom Mycelium to Break Down and Digest Microplastics

Students Eoin McCarthy, Eoin O'Murchú, Jack Chambers
School Clonakilty Community College, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Teacher Patrick O Keeffe
Venue MTU Cork

We wanted to solve the problem of microplastic pollution naturally using oyster mushroom mycelium. We investigated if two species of common oyster mushroom, Pleurotus Ostreatus and Pleurotus Pulmonarius, could digest microplastics and be a sustainable way of getting rid of microplastics in our environment.

Hypothesis: If oyster mushroom mycelium is grown in the presence of microplastics then they will digest and reduce the amount of microplastics present.

We prepared microplastic particles from different types of plastics to test in the experiment. We grew samples of each species of mushroom by combining cooled boiled sawdust, 3 g of assorted microplastics and 20 g of mushroom spores in sealed bags. The control samples had no spores added. Initially one group of samples was grown for 1 month and another for 2 months.

After the mycelium had time to grow the amount of microplastic left was calculated. This process involved wet sieving, wet peroxide oxidation treatment, and density separation. The separated microplastics mass was calculated and then compared to the original mass of 3 g of microplastics added.

The results showed the samples grown for longer time had less microplastics. Pleurotus Ostreatus removed more microplastics with an average of 1.24 g remaining at the end compared to 1.27 g for Pleurotus Pulmonarius.

We refined the procedure to achieve more accurate results. We grew further samples containing Pleurotus Osteratus for 6 months. When we compared these results to the control group, we could see a statistically significant reduction in the amount of microplastics present, supporting our hypothesis.

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SciFest National Final 2023
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