On November 7, 2007, the Cosco Busan oil spill dumped more than 50,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay, spoiling 56 miles of shoreline. A local organization, Matter of Trust, teamed up with Fungi Perfecti, a company that finds functional uses of mushrooms for people and the planet, to experiment with mycoremediation, a process that uses fungus to remove contaminants from soil.
The researchers discovered that mushroom roots produce enzymes that normally serve the fungus by unlocking wood fibers, which are made of strings of carbon-hydrogen molecules. Oil is held together by the same molecular bonds, which the mushroom can break into sugars. Using this process, the mycoremediation team was able to successfully clean up the majority of the spilled oil.