Oil eating fungi – in Mycomine’s plant at Ytterby gruva
A world first, unique treatment plant has recently been established in Ytterby mine, Sweden. It is the first of its kind where fungi break down and recycle oil-based pollutants. The company MycoMine has found a sustainable solution to an unsustainable problem – a problem that requires immediate action.
Ytterby mine, just outside Waxholm in the Stockholm archipelago, was used during the Cold War as a fuel depot by the Swedish military. Most of the mine shaft was filled with propellant, like a giant oil tank. When the political tensions subsided, the mine was decommissioned as a military gas station and instead became the subject of environmental cleanup. Still today, Ytterby mine is in need of cleanup.
The reason is that oil-based environmental toxins are almost impossible to get rid of in a sustainable way. Today’s methods either involve burning the oils, which leads to increased carbon dioxide emissions – something we definitely want to avoid with today’s rampant climate situation. Or, they are put in landfill while waiting for new methods to be developed – leading to unnecessary costs and disruption of sensitive ecosystems and human health.
At MycoMine, which develops biological methods for handling environmental toxins, they decided to find a solution to the problem.
“We wanted to develop a method where oils are broken down in a sustainable way and can be returned to the natural cycles – back to the carbon cycle. We wanted to avoid the oils being converted and released as greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at all costs. That’s why we took inspiration from nature’s finest decomposers, namely fungi, and developed a green technology where the environmentally hazardous oils are turned into environmentally friendly biomass,” said CEO and one of the founders, Magnus Ivarsson.
In MycoMine’s newly established treatment plant MycoCube out in Ytterby, the fungi do the work. They break down the oils and convert them into biomass – a completely natural end product that can be recycled in a sustainable way, back to nature. No additional additives are necessary, only the fungi’s own abilities are optimized in the system.
“The Swedish Fortifications Agency, which owns and manages the Ytterby mine, hopes that this method will become an important complement to other remediation methods.For many years, we have worked with traditional remediation in Ytterby mine. For us, it is interesting and valuable to support and follow this sustainable project, which is now moving from basic research to application. The method speeds up the natural processes, and we hope for positive results that can be of great benefit both in Ytterby mine, elsewhere in our property portfolio, and for society at large,” said Gunnar Edlund, specialist at the Swedish Fortifications Agency.
The need is great in industry, municipalities and administration. Hundreds of millions of tons of oil-based pollution are in landfills waiting to be processed. And every year the volumes increase at an alarming rate. Magnus Ivarsson summarizes:
“The countries of the world have jointly decided that by 2050 our planet will be fossil-free, which means an end to the use of fossil fuels. We at MycoMine believe that the environmental debt built up by man through the use of fossil fuels in the last 150 years should, by then, also be paid. Therefore, we are now looking for new partners in the form of both customers and investors so that we have the opportunity to scale up our business and grow as a company.”
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