Plastic Eating Mushrooms
Every year enough plastic is thrown away to circle the earth four times. Ending up in landfills, waterways and our oceans, polyurethane based plastics take 500-1000 years to degrade – but there is hope that we might not have to wait that long. The discovery of plastic eating mushrooms, an Amazonian fungus called Pestalotiopsis Microspore, might offer a solution.
Previously known in Buenos Aires and Japan to cause leaf spot on common ivy and shrubs, a team of Yale student researchers visiting the Yasuni National Forest in the Amazon first noticed that this particular fungus can survive solely on polyurethane in an anaerobic environment. The combination of these two factors resulted in the hypothesis that it might be possible to use the plastic eating mushrooms deep inside landfills where little to no oxygen is present.
The researchers at Yale have been hard at work testing this theory by growing large amounts of the mushrooms to isolate their digestive enzymes. The liquid enzymes are then applied to large quantities of plastic to begin their breakdown.
While other Universities have picked up the mantle to start their own research, there is unfortunately very little investment being made to fund private research of this seemingly simple solution. As a result big advancements in the theory have been slow to materialize.
For now it seems we will have to wait for these researchers to publish their findings – in hopefully the near future.