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Mexican scientist grows tasty mushrooms from dirty diapers

June 16, 2011 - Washington

In what could be called double benefits from a single shot, a Mexican scientist has found a quick way of breaking down disposable diapers while producing tasty mushrooms.

Alethia Vazquez-Morillas of the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico City has shown that a fungus called Oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, can devour 90 percent of a disposable diaper within two months.

What's more, the mushrooms grown on diapers are edible and Vazquez-Morillas has dined upon them herself.

"They are cleaner than most of the vegetables you can find in the market, at least in Mexico," Discovery News quoted Vazquez-Morillas saying in an interview with the Economist.

Disposable diapers normally take centuries to biodegrade in landfills. They are mostly made of cellulose, the tough material that plants use for structural support.

But oyster mushrooms thrive on cellulose. They are already grown on cellulose-rich materials like barley straw, coffee grounds, and even the leftovers from making tequila.

Vazquez-Morillas asserts they are safe, since the diapers are sterilized before use.

The diapers are steam sterilized before being inoculated with mushroom mycelium, the network of white threads that make up much of the fungus' structure.

Steaming kills the bacteria and other fungi that could out-compete the oyster mushrooms for living space on the diapers. It also knock-out creatures that cause disease in humans.

The study appeared in the journal Waste Management.


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