Queen's Wood project turning cigarette butts into mushrooms
- Credit: Honor Pennington Legh
Tucked away behind Queen's Wood Cafe, a group of volunteers are working hard to create a shed that will turn cigarette butts and plastic waste into mushrooms.
The Fungi Shed is the brainchild of Honor Pennington Legh, 37, a yoga teacher and budding mycologist (someone who studies mushrooms).
Through her studies she has realised the transformative power of fungi in tackling our waste problem, which she hopes to showcase to the local community.
Honor said: “We’re going to be recycling some unusual things.
“A lot of people know that mushrooms can recycle coffee grounds, organic waste but then there’s also plastic, cigarette butts, old cottons and things like that.”
The project will recycle waste from the cafe and the adjacent permaculture garden using mushrooms, and double up as a place where the local community can learn about mycology.
“We’re educating people how to grow mushrooms, so we’ll have workshops for people to come and learn how to grow mushrooms on cardboard or coffee grounds or organic waste," said Honor.
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“If you say to someone can mushrooms eat plastic, they’d probably say ‘what?’ but you have to train the fungi onto things it won’t just eat.”
Describing the process, she said: “You start the fungus on its favourite food and then you slowly start to introduce cigarette butts that haven’t been smoked. So they don’t have all of the toxic chemicals in, they just have the cellulose acetate which is what the cigarette butt is made from. So it’ll start to eat the cellulose acetate and then you slowly start to give it ones that have been smoked and it’ll also to eat all the tar and the nasty chemicals off of that as well.”
The shed will use hardy oyster mushrooms to eat all manner of toxic household waste.
"The mushrooms that we grow to recycle, we won’t be feeding to anybody just for safety reasons," Honor said. "It’s unclear, for example, as to whether ink in cardboard for example would be present in the mushrooms.”
Her hope is that the mushrooms that eat the waste will be used as the base for other community fungi projects.
Honor and the team have launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for the build materials and to get amenities such as electricity professionally installed, and they have raised over £800 so far.
Their hope is that by crowdfunding and asking for community donations they can keep the community at the heart of the project.
She said: “All of the money we’ve raised so far has been from people chipping in from the community. We’ve had some people give £2 here, £5 there, then we’ve had a few £100 or more.”
Beyond donations, they have also received some raw materials by donations from Buildbase, just next to Queen's Wood.
“It’s really nice that we get to come together in that way rather than just getting a big chunk of money from Tesco, for instance.”
“That was the first thing I had suggested to me was ‘get a grant from Tesco’ and I went ‘no, I think not’ because we want to be doing this to empower people to feel like it’s theirs.”
“I want everybody to feel like they can come here to learn about fungi, or if they want to be involved in the build and the running of the project and feel that it’s theirs”
Most of the build is set to take place in August, meaning the shed should open in the months following.