Is Edible Plastic on the Menu?

Key2 Group FungiMutarium Cultivating.jpg

You couldn't make this up. Scientists think they have found the answer to the issue of recycling plastic bags by turning them into food! A crazy idea, it could never happen. Or could it....?


Plastic bag use is gradually declining. According to news sources, over £41.3m in revenue has been raised in the first six months that plastic bag charges were introduced with at least £29.2m donated to ‘good causes’ such as environmental causes. Hmm….hands up all those who thought all the 5p charge all went to charity?

But 'good causes' or not, they still cause pollution.  A recent report published by the journal Science claims that around 8 million tonnes of discarded plastic consumer items – mainly carrier bags and bottles - end up in global waters every year. 

We may have reduced the plastic bag mountain, some of which ends up in the sea, as, according to the BBC News, the use of plastic bags has fallen dramatically since charges were levied back in October last year.  In the first six months, just 1.1 billion bags have been used compared with 7.64 billion bags a couple of years ago!  That’s a huge improvement.  But that’s still a lot of plastic bags. 

So what happens to them?  Individual recycling, multi-use, landfill sites, or... eaten in restaurants….?

Hang on, you can’t eat plastic bags…or can you? 

Well, apparently, you may be able to soon.  Scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands have dreamed up something weird and wacky that can help address the thorny issue of  ‘what can we do with all those plastic bags that won’t damage the environment?’ They are hoping to turn them into food!

This is obviously a highly technical process but in very basic terms, using UV light and small pods filled with seaweed-based agar, a fungi called Mutarium is cultivated which feeds on a blend of starch, sugar and, most importantly, plastic. 

After setting up the egg-shaped pods, they are left to develop and, in a few months, the plastic is gone and only a puffy, edible substance remains which looks a bit like a rice cake in texture and is formed into a cup shape like the pod it was developed in.

It’s only in its very early stages so there’s a lot more to do before we tuck into plastic bag risotto, but the scientific researchers feel that these pods could eventually be a fantastic way to recycle plastic as the pods, as well as being edible themselves, can hold various food stuffs too so they could be an interesting addition to the weekly shop and really begin to address the issue of waste plastic bags in a never-before considered way. 

So, could this be the key to saving our oceans?  Well, it’s a start, and a really clever idea.  So our oceans could start to look a little clearer one day in the future.  After all, there can’t be ‘mush-room’ in there now with all those plastic bags…..


Read more about plastic eating mushrooms here