Reece Brice

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

Mycoremediation 2050

Scientists have developed a computer model capable of tracking the flow of plastic pollution on our planet. The data collected by this model has projected that over 1.3 million tons of plastic pollution will pervade ocean and land environments over the next two decades if there is no worldwide intervention. Scientists hypothesize that by the year 2050, our world will become overwhelmed by plastic pollution, with there being more plastic than marine life present in Earth’s oceans. Our oceans function as the planet’s main oxygen producers and are seen as the true lungs of our planet, therefore this plastic future reality will have significant negative effects concerning the ability of planet Earth to sustain life. Phytoplankton and seaweed are responsible for the absorption of CO2 and the release of oxygen.  For these two oxygen producers to maintain their vital oxygen-producing functions enabling us to breathe, ocean ecosystems have to remain stable and thriving.

Our terrestrial waste disposal is increasing the probability of these dystopian realities. The majority of countries around the world opt to dump plastic waste into landfills, essentially the plastic finds its way into water or soil.  Alternatively, countries opt to incinerate plastic waste releasing toxic greenhouse gasses into natural environments creating health risks and damaging yet again a vital life-sustaining facet of our world, the ozone layer. Destroyed ozone leads to increased UV radiation, resulting in hot harsh environments. People will be subject to overexposure to UV rays leading to skin cancer, cataracts, and weakened immune systems. The world’s plant and animal ecosystems will be disrupted, having further negative effects on the ability of planet Earth to sustain life. Our environments will become extremely harsh, ruined, and uninhabitable. What is necessitated is forward thinking in any way, shape, or form.

My work over the years at Michaelis dealt with imagining this environmental future. After making this body of work a feeling of devastating hopelessness led me to research what could be done to turn this inevitable disaster around. I discovered that a large number of mushroom species possess the ability to degrade and decompose plastic. Certain species can consume and survive solely off plastic and others can ingest the main plastic polymer, polyurethane, ultimately speeding up the degradation process of plastic. Resulting in plastic waste transformed into organic matter, with mushroom fruits safe for consumption, opening up new possibilities pertaining to enabling food security. Mushrooms are being overlooked as a possible environmental solution to the disposal and disintegration of plastic waste. These natural composters can become the key to cleaning our planet. Mycoremediation refers to a natural process that fungi use to degrade contaminants found in our environment. This form of bioremediation can occur naturally or deliberately, essentially breaking down a variety of environmental pollutants, in this case, focusing on the degradation of plastic pollutants into organic matter. There are over 50 species of fungi that possess the enzymes and bacteria necessary to decompose plastic, with some of these commonly found in our shops and eaten.

Mycoremediation 2050, is an exhibition aiming to facilitate a solution-seeking space, rather than depicting pure dystopian plastic-doomed realities.  The exhibition imagines a future 2050 world dominated by Mycoremediation, with mushrooms expanded as a worldwide recycling intervention for the disposal of plastic waste. The mushroom forms depicted act as reminders of the beauty and life-sustaining factors our natural environments possess; their plastic materiality, further underscoring the need for forward thinking and worldwide intervention concerning the disposal of plastic to maintain the beauty and life-sustaining forces in our natural environments.