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Alternatives to mountains of disposable plastic bags

 
Posts: 8
Location: Near Bloomington, Indiana
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I've been exploring mushroom cultivation as a business, and it appears that the current method for oyster mushrooms, and similar is to use disposable plastic bags, so the growing medium can be sterilized before inoculation.  I hate that waste, and I was wondering if anyone here had an alternative that would still allow for sterilization via Steam or pressure cooker.  Would glass jars with a filtered lid work?  I understand that procuring a few thousand glass jars could be cost prohibitive, and getting the spent media out could probably be a pain, but in the end much less would be thrown out.

Thoughts?
 
gardener
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Useable canning jars can usually be had for cheap at rummage sales, thrift stores, flea markets or advertisements in the paper. I've managed to accumulate several hundred over a few years. Most are in use for the putting up my harvest, but. Just keep your eyes out (last year neighbors had a massive rummage sale and marked their old jars higher than new ones with rings and lids from store. Of course nobody bought. After the sale, they threw them. I dumpster-dived and got 13 dozen plus (only three broke) for free. Had they marked them a quarter a jar like the thrift store they would have sold... that's okay, I was happy to adopt them after abandonment. The season for NEED is mid summer to late fall, then they seem readily available.

Many bulk condiments are still packaged in useable half gallon or gallon jars. Talk nicely to some church groups, the ladies auxillary may have some after an event and be glad to gift you or let you have them cheap. (me being a lady, a donation to their bake sale or a big plate of cookies for the social goes a long ways)
 
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Location: York County, PA
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My wife and I are actually starting a mushroom farm and will be in production by next month.  We have the same feelings about disposable bags so we decided to look around and found some other mushroom farms are using plastic food grade buckets with holes drilled in the sides.  I found a grocery store manager who sells his used bulk buckets on Craigslist.  He sold me 80 4-gal buckets with lids for $60 and he said anytime I need more I can just call him.  $60 at Home Depot will get you $10 5-gal buckets.  Below are what two people suggested for hole placement (we aren't going to use kitchen trash bags though, we will sterilize each bucket after use).  The downside to buckets are that you cannot see how far along the mycelium is during spawn running.  You have to watch closely for them to just start to pinhead and then take them into the grow/fruiting room.  If you want any more advice on starting a mushroom farm please feel free to ask!

Suggestions for hole placement:
For oyster mushroom hanging bags, I put 1/4-1/2" holes. I did 12 holes.
I did 4 evenly spaced holes in a circle at the top, middle, and bottom of the substrate.
So three horizontal circles. Space the center circle so its holes are below the empty spaces between holes in the top circle.
Place the bottom holes similarly below the empty spaces left by the center hole.

I have been using these for oysters for a bit over 5 yrs.  5/8" to 3/4" holes seem to work just fine.  
I use white kitchen trash bags to line the buckets and poke a small hole in the bag at each hole in the bucket.  
The bags do several things for you. Having just small holes in the bag will help the bucket maintain moisture and drastically reduced the amount of exposed substrate and possibility of contam.  
The bag also aids in the stuffing and compacting the straw in the bucket. Before I poke holes in the bag, I like to give the whole surface of the bucket a good wipe down with a bleach solution and allow them to dry.
 
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In my opinion a good option is logs, stumps, or wood chips. These options take a bit more time to fruit.

On a shorter time scale, though, you can do the 5 gallon bucket method with pasteurized or "cold fermented" straw. I got lots of food grade buckets from local stores (Wal-Mart bakery icing buckets) and restaurants. Just call around and ask. Many times they are just throwing them out, anyway.

15-20 holes are drilled per bucket. I think 1/2" diameter, but can't remember off the top of my head...I'd have to look it up. And you drill 5, 1/8" holes in the bottom for drainage.

I have been using this method and it is (comparably) fast, very easy,  and has very low energy input.

****You usually inoculate the straw with myceliated grain spawn (or maybe cardboard spawn?) when using this method****

I don't think you would get enough production from fruiting only out of jars to make it worth your while. But I'm not sure on that front...just what I think based on my experience.
 
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I am in the same position you were in a year ago and wondered if you might be able to shed any light a year on. What solution did you come up with? I am looking into using acrylic tubes - any reason this might not be viable?
 
pollinator
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Glass jars would be ideal, but it makes scaling up difficult. If you had access to old glass carbuoys from a beer or winemaker and wouldn't mind fiddling with a diamond saw and rubber gasket material, that would make for larger batches, but that's a lot of work.

There's always the idea of recycling plastics with oyster mushrooms. I don't know if anyone here has managed it yet, but it is apparently possible, or at least conceivable.

This thread, where a member discusses and shows pictures of wax moth larvae and the job they do on styrofoam is inspiring for its potential, too, though I would want to have them and their feces analysed in a lab before I use them anywhere. It could be that they are sequestering the plastics in themselves and in their feces, as opposed to breaking them down into their constituent components, like fungi will do.

In that case, I would use the wax moth larvae as a first stage of decomposition, and then I would kill them and gather their corpses and feces up to be inoculated with oyster mushroom spore, which would probably have an easier time breaking down the already-somewhat-digested plastics.

If this method of disposal works, any plastic that could be sterilised adequately could be employed with the intention of submitting it to an aggressive and complete biological decomposition.

Free substrate bags that become substrate for oyster mushroom crops, and we start actually getting rid of plastic pollution. Sounds like a win-win to me.

-CK
 
gardener
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Any of the commercial mushroom setups are taking advantage of the fact that mushroom bloom will happen in several places at the same time so a glass container would only allow one spot for fruiting (making the actual mushrooms).
For quantity you need something that the spawn can fruit from in many places (hence the plastic bucket with many holes (1/2" is fairly ideal).
Plastic bags are used more for ease of storage space (very little when unused), one of the best methods for a fruiting room is to hang several one below the other (up to 5 per line) this allows maximum product in very little space.

hau Chris, yes you can recycle plastics with fungi but you have to already have the plastic broken down to micro sizes for this to work its best.
I really like your idea for styro recycling.

Redhawk
 
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One idea, which doesn't involve not using plastic bags at all, is to make bottle bricks (aka ecobricks) by packing the used plastic into discarded plastic bottles & using them for green building material.
Just a thought! Obviously not ideal, but it is a possibility.
 
Casey Williams
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There are the mushroom bottles that they use a lot in Asia. They generally require hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment to make it labor/cost efficient in the long run. https://keolamagazine.com/land/mushroom-in-a-bottle/

Additionally, I have been playing around with using high-temperature resistant restaurant containers (Cambro or Rubbermaid) with holes drilled in the top as opposed to one use poly bags. They can be pressure sterilized or steamed at high temp. for long periods of time. I am only trying to grow out the mycelium (not going into the fruiting stage) to use for compost piles, but I am thinking that the resulting blocks could be used to fruit mushrooms in a similar way to the poly bags. I've just started experimenting with these, so I don't know if it will work in the end and/or be efficient enough. It is a promising start for me, though!
Staff note (Glenn Herbert):

Mushroom in a bottle article moved to this link (2/19):
https://keolamagazine.com/business/hamakua-mushrooms/

 
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Hi, first time posting in the forums.

My brother and I are looking at setting up a small side-business and we too are bothered by all the potential waste. We're looking at starting with a strain or two of oyster mushrooms. From what I've seen, some commercial ventures use 5lb plastic bags of substrate, then dispose of the bag. Would something like this 4 litre tub not be suitable? It's clear, easily drilled, can be sealed, and can be chemically sterilised (not sure if they can be autoclaved though. Can anyone think of any objections to using them, except the initial cost outlay?  https://oipps.co.uk/4-l-crystal-square-tub (ps I live in the UK, which is why it is a UK site).
 
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Location: Perth, Australia
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Hey, I've been experimenting with growing shiitake in re-usable containers, I wrote about it here: https://www.mushroom.guide/tutorial/shiitake/6-replacing-single-use-plastic/. I've been converting cylindrical storage containers you usually use in the pantry.
 
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards
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