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A startup eyes mushrooms as a cure for construction waste

Illustration of a mushroom wearing a napkin around the trunk with a fork and knife

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

A group of construction and waste-disposal groups have tapped a little-known startup to study if mushrooms could help with the growing issue of nonrecyclable construction waste.

Why it matters: The growing pile of pandemic-fueled construction waste is often loaded with toxic chemicals, making it difficult to recycle and hazardous to dump in landfills.

Driving the news: The startup, Mycocycle, uses mushrooms to deal with waste. Rubicon Technologies, a software company for waste disposal, partnered with construction group Lendlease to finance the project, which studies Mycocycle's technique.

  • The study was conducted at a Rockwood Sustainable Solutions waste disposal facility in Tennessee.

How it works: Lendlease provided roughly six tons of shredded roofing shingles made from asphalt, a material that fungi are able to break down, Mycocycle CEO Joanne Rodriguez tells Axios.

  • Rodriguez and her team identified three strains of fungi that could be trained to "eat" the asphalt shingles.
  • The final product is an organic material that Mycocycle plans to reuse.

Yes, but: Fungi are fickle things, and have distinct ranges of conditions under which they prefer to work.

Quick take: It's an outside-the-box approach, to be sure, but the increasing use of fungi in climate technology — whether that's faux leather or shingle disposal — is promising enough that investors and large companies are taking notice.

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