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From Waste to Regeneration: A Johnson & Su Bioreactor for the Regens Unite Conference in Berlin

In the vibrant atmosphere of this year's Regens Unite Conferenz , the Gespa e.V. collaborated with anstiftung to set up a dedicated project. For the conference in mid-September, we designed and operated a bioreactor modeled on Johnson & Su to recycle the disposable tableware generated during the event with the goal of returning it to the cycle. In this way, rather than simply dumping the disposable tableware generated during the conference, we wanted to treat it in a way that would contribute to the regenerative development of the region.

The Regens Unite conference is a lively event that explores different facets of sustainable thinking - with dialogues about regenerative issues taking center stage. Through a wide range of formats, including workshops, panel discussions, performances, meditations, and art, the idea of regeneration is illuminated and explored in a variety of ways. This year's edition of Regens Unite drew approximately 150 participants per day of events.

The seeds for the development of a Johnson & Su bioreactor were sown just before the conference, when we were faced with the challenge of treating the compostable disposable wooden tableware and sugar cane plates used for serving food not as mere waste, but in a sustainable and regenerative way - in line with the content of the conference.

The bioreactor was then filled over the two days of the event, along with the active participation of conference attendees. During the communal meal, participants joined in washing and chopping the used dishes. In addition to this, wood chips from a Berlin maple tree and leaves from the Plänterwald forest were brought to the recycling station on the Moos site. These were to be integrated into the bioreactor together with the disposable tableware: The crushed plates and wooden cutlery were then watered, mixed and placed into the container with the fresh wood chips and Plänterwald foliage, which already showed signs of mycelial growth.

In addition to its waste prevention function, the project serves as an experiment that allows us to simultaneously test the decomposability of disposable tableware advertised as "compostable" - with the help of fungi. The goal of a Johnson & Su bioreactor is, after all, to promote decomposition by fungi and to produce a substrate rich in fungal spores. To that end, the filled container will sit for the next 9-12 months on the grounds of Moos, a former bathtub factory and hub for regenerative ideas in Berlin, where the conference was held. It will be supplied with water daily via an irrigation system to create optimal conditions for fungal growth.

At the end of this time, the resulting substrate will be distributed to various regional projects as enrichment to increase fungal diversity in soils, with small amounts of the substrate being sufficient to inoculate many acres of soil. Collaborations with Tiny Forests, the Waldgarten Berlin-Britz, other community gardens and supra-regional businesses in regenerative agriculture are currently being planned. Assuming good conditions in their soils, the mycelium will spread and form a living network there, strengthening the health of the larger ecosystem.

After all, fungi not only play the main role in this bioreactor, but are also crucial players in soil health and plant vitality. Their role in decomposing organic matter, forming symbiotic relationships with plant roots, and enriching the soil cannot be overstated.

Join us on this exciting journey as we follow the progress of this bioreactor and its contribution to a regenerative future!

Many thanks to the Society for mikroBIOMIK, which we had the pleasure of meeting this past summer, for their design inspiration.


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