Cigarette litter is a real problem, so Australian charity No More Butts and Melbourne-based mycologists Fungi Solutions have teamed up to start CigCycle. CigCycle is a research project which will determine whether Australian fungi can be used to create a viable recycling stream from cigarette butts.
No More Butts founder Shannon Mead said it’s important to understand the impact cigarette butts had after they ended up in landfill: “It takes about 15 years for plastic cigarette filters to break down. Through the CigCycle program, we want to divert this plastic waste from landfill and recover the resource.”
Fungi Solutions founder Amanda Morgan said the mushrooms can use the cellulose acetate in a cigarette butt filter as a source of nutrition to grow on. “The fungi have incredibly adaptive digestive systems, so they can get used to eating challenging materials,” Amanda said. “We’re hoping that over time and with generations of cultivation, the fungi will become more targeted towards digesting cigarette butts. Then we hope to see them partially decompose the filter materials and break down some of the toxic components to create a clean by-product.”
Both Amanda and Shannon hope that the transformed butts will have uses in insulation, construction and transportation, or as a sustainable replacement for polystyrene, which is another problematic waste stream in itself.