Each year approximately 2000 new types of ‘Fungi‘ are discovered.

On a global scale we have a growing problem, which is getting worse each day — Plastic Pollution.

It is estimated that, out of all the plastic ever to be made, 8.3 billion metric tons exits in a waste form, whether on land, in the oceans or in the organic sea salt you consume. Furthermore, every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans. (Data from sas.org pollution facts and figures)

It takes anywhere from a decade to 1000 years for plastics to properly degrade, so you can see how this is a problem that needs to be given attention before it is too late. To stop using plastic completely is an unrealistic goal, at least for the time being. Interestingly, a newly discovered mushroom could be the solution to the growing plastic problem the planet is currently facing.

The fungus named ‘Aspergillus tubingensis’ which was discovered on a rubbish heap in Pakistan has been shown to break down the chemical bonds in plastic.

Dr Sehroon Khan of the World Agroforestry Centre and Kunming Institute of Biology said:

“We decided to take samples from a rubbish dump in Islamabad, Pakistan, to see if anything was feeding on the plastic in the same way that other organisms feed on dead plant or animal matter.”

In the experiment which was published by Pollution via ScienceDirect found that this unique fungus loves to consume plastic – When the fungus is introduced to polyester polyurethane plastic, the mycelium caused degradation and scarring. The fungus uses enzymes to break chemical bonds in the plastic, and then uses its mycelia, a network of tiny root-like filaments, to further break apart the material. A piece of plastic can be consumed within weeks.

The study proved that just after two months in a liquid medium, A. tubingensis had degraded a full sized sheet of polyester polyurethane to such a degree that it had effectively completely fallen apart. Therefore, the use of such microorganisms can indeed break the plastics down and be the solution to address the growing environmental problems of plastic waste.

But as good as it may sound there is also a down side to it. One of the reasons that plastic is widely used is the fact that, in general, it is inert and therefore sterile. The reality that microorganisms are seemingly evolving to take advantage of this superabundant sterile resource could be something to be concerned about.

Scientists have long been searching for a way to safely dispose of plastics and now it looks like they may have found one.

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Source: The Independent