University of Arizona researchers want to harness that attribute and use the fungi to manage wastes while yielding a high-value crop of gourmet mushrooms.
University mycologist Barry Pryor and undergraduate Lauren Jackson in Tucson are examining how variety mushroom species work to degrade coffee grounds, used brewery grains, straw, newspapers, pizza boxes and woody landscape wastes into compost, according to a news release.
The next step will be to grow the mushrooms on a larger scale outside of a laboratory.
Based on their research, they say the fungi could turn into a cash crop.
Their initial foray involved oyster mushrooms on straw since they're one of the easier to grow.
A fresh crop of mushrooms will mature every six to eight weeks, depending on the species.
Now they've moved into blue oyster mushrooms, king oysters and lion's mane.
Next up are shitake.
Although using mushrooms for recycling is relatively new, a Berkeley, Calif., company has been successfully doing it with coffee grounds for a few years.
Among possible feedstocks are almond hulls, corn stalks and cobs, tree trimmings, cardboard, paper cups, pizza boxes, and other consumer and agricultural wastes.
Currently, most gourmet mushrooms are grown on hardwood chips or sawdust.