Oyster Mushrooms Cleaning Up Oil Spills !!!

Nirdesh Bhattarai

7 Jul 2021 - 4 min read

If you are unknown about the fascinating world of oyster mushrooms, we hope this article will open a new world of wonders. We knew that oyster mushrooms are nutritious and delicious and they can be used in many recipes. But, how often do you hear that they can be used to clean up the mess that we create in our environment? According to Paul Stamets, a world-renowned mycologist, fungi can clean up a wide range of messes from oil spills to nuclear meltdowns.

The Science Behind It

It is common knowledge that fungi play the role of decomposers in our environments. They were some of the primitive, complex life forms on land, and they helped create a livable environment as we see today. In their evolution over a period of billions of years, they have developed natural agents that can break down complex hydrocarbons and other organic matter. There are more than 120 enzymes that can break down toxic substances from oils and chemicals.

A Brief History of the Practice

Before humans came into existence, mushrooms have played the role of natural decomposers in our environment. However, over the last few decades, we have been able to study their roles in cleaning up our mess. Some of the notable uses of mushrooms in cleaning up oil spills have come in a recent couple of decades. They have been able used to clean up minor spills from a vehicle to large-scale oil spills in forests and oceans.

Incident 1: San Fransisco Bay Oil Spill (November 2007)

On 7th November 2007, a container ship named Cosco Busan struck the San Fransisco Bay Bridge, spilling more than 50,000 gallons of oil. A group of volunteers collaborated to clean up the oil on the beaches following the spill. Hair mats and oyster mushrooms were used in the cleanup process. Famous mycologist Paul Stamets donated around 10,000 $ worth of oyster mushroom spawns. The reaction of mycelium sprouted oyster mushrooms removing all the trace of petroleum in the treatment area.

Incident 2: Chevron Oil Spill (1964 - 1990)

The Chevron Oil Spill is the world’s largest oil spill polluting the rainforests of Amazon and poisoning the vegetation, food, water, and soil for the people of the region. The Amazon Mycorenewal Project is an undertaking that aims to clean up this enormous toxic waste in the region. Petrol-degrading fungi are being used to detoxify the soils and rivers but due to lack of funding, progress is slow.


In conclusion, we have learned about some of the unseen and unknown use of oyster mushrooms in ecological cleansing, mainly oil spills. The main takeaway from this article is the importance of turning to nature to solve some of our complex problems. Only nature itself has experimented with billions of years in time and unimaginable amount of resources. If we are ready to observe and listen, we will find many solutions that are hard to produce artificially.