This newly-discovered fungi may help save our environment. It’s no secret that the indiscriminate and irresponsible littering of plastic is a serious threat to the world.
With plastics taking as long as thousands of years to be decomposed naturally, plastics pose a threat to human beings (as chemicals used in the production of plastic can be absorbed by the human body), animals (plastics can poison or injure animals), and the environment (leaching chemicals from plastic-filled landfills can contaminate ground water).
It has long been the wish of scientists to find ways to quickly and safely dispose of plastic. This new development in the scientific community may just do that.
According to researchers (students and professors) from Yale University, they have found fungi which can disintegrate plastic. They found these fungi in the Amazon during one of their trips for Yale’s Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory program.
In an article they published on the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, they wrote:
“In the current study, endophytes were isolated from plant stems collected in the Ecuadorian rainforest. A subset of these organisms was screened for their ability to degrade polyurethane. Several active organisms were identified, including two distinct isolates of Pestalotiopsis microspora with the ability to efficiently degrade and utilize PUR as the sole carbon source when grown anaerobically, a unique observation among reported PUR biodegradation activities.”
PUR there is Polyurethane and although an inert substance in its final product form, it’s one of the most pervasive pollutants on the planet. Finding a way to safely and quickly disintegrate the material will be a literal life-saver for the environment and for use living in it.
On a different note, we’re interested in finding out how using the plastic-eating fungi can go wrong. Be creative and tell us below.
Images 1 & 2 from PlasticPollution on Flickr (CC)