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Hold on to your butts, fungi filter out ciggie litter

Hospitality venues, sporting centres, community hubs and any other places with an ashtray are being asked to collect cigarette butts rather than bin them - all in the name of science.

Specially trained oyster mushrooms have been shown to break down the waste and turn it into a sustainable material in as little as two weeks, offering an alternative to them being sent to landfill.

The roots of the fungi can break down the plastic filter and toxins, using them as a food source.

"They essentially poop out the by-product," says Shannon Mead, executive director of No More Butts.

"Part of this program is to see if that product is viable then as a replacement for things like polystyrene."

Cigarette butts are currently the most littered item in Australia, and plastic filters take about 15 years to break down.

Disposing of them through mushrooms has been proven on a small scale, and now 1.25 million cigarette butts are needed to see if the process can work on a large amount of waste.

"Given the amount of butts littered in Victoria, around Australia and the world, this is technically infinitely scalable," Mr Mead said.

"Because it only relies on space and conditions, it doesn't require, for example, machinery."

The project is being run by environmental charity No More Butts and social enterprise Fungi Solutions, with funding from Sustainability Victoria.

Mr Mead says participating businesses will not face any extra costs.

The charity will provide them with special bins free of charge and take care of collecting the waste every few weeks.