Conversion of mushroom waste into value-added products

This project will evaluate the potential of converting mushroom waste into value-added products such as bioadsorbents and biopolymers. Globally the consumption of mushroom and market value of the mushroom agro-industry are expected to increase by up to 20.8 m tons and USD 50 bn, by 2026, respectively. The disposal of spent mushroom waste generated after harvesting is one of the major issues of the industry since 5 kg waste is produced per kg of mushroom. Burning and landfill are the most used methods whilst mushroom waste is rich in natural polymers such as chitosan, protein and cellulose.

Although, recent studies have explored the efficiency of mushrooms and their wastes as adsorbents they used either a single source or a single pollutant to be removed. These limit the understanding of the full potential of biosorbents. In addition, a detailed methodology is needed for recovery of pollutants and regeneration of biosorbents.

Spent mushroom waste offers a vast renewable resource for the production of biopolymers. We will directly convert this waste to a selection of valuable polymer precursors. These precursors can be converted to a number of downstream products to replace petroleum-based plastics. We will utilise bacteria, which are shown to degrade cellulose, lignin and chitin. These organisms are amenable to genetic manipulation, tolerant to a wide variety of physical and chemical stresses, and capable of utilizing numerous aromatic molecules. This rational design approach could provide an alternative route to produce bioplastics from spent mushroom waste.

We will explore (bio)chemical strategies to modify the waste. Parameters and mechanisms governing the removal of pollutants e.g., heavy metals from water will be determined. We will gauge the possibility of using biopolymers as packaging films. Project also aims to analyse the feasibility of using mushroom waste to contribute to the circular economy.

Dr Begum Tokay
(Principal Investigator)
Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department 
University of Nottingham 

Dr Begum Tokay is an Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham. Her research interests includes manufacturing porous powders, thin films and membranes from inorganic and organic materials. She has extensive experience (>18 years) on manufacturing and characterisation of these materials for energy-intensive and environmentally relevant separation and purification applications.


Begum is one of the inventors of two patents (WO2011072215-A1, WO2011137227-A) for preparing highly permeable and selective zeolite membranes for CO2 separation from natural gas for commercial use, supported by Shell Global Solutions at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. 


In Nottingham, she has been developing future membrane materials, sensors and thin-films using metal-organic frameworks, biopolymers and biosorbents. She was recently awarded a 2-year EPSRC grant from the highly competitive “Adventurous Manufacturing Research Call” to scale up manufacturing of metal-organic framework membranes.

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