Plas­tic-eat­ing fungi

Element - - Technology -

An un­usual strain of Ecuado­rian fungi en­joy noth­ing more than set­tling down to a meal of polyurethane in an air­less land­fill. De­pend­ing on whether we find a cure for our ad­dic­tion to plas­tics, they may prove to be a lifesaver for the planet. A group of stu­dents from Yale Univer­sity made the star­tling dis­cov­ery while on a field trip to the jun­gles of Ecuador. The mi­cro-or­gan­isms they dis­cov­ered are able to break down those plas­tics which are be­com­ing the bane of the earth. The fun­gus, called Pestalo­tiop­sis mi­crospora, is the first any­one has found to sur­vive on a steady diet of polyurethane alone and – even more sur­pris­ing – do this in an anaer­o­bic (oxy­gen-free) en­vi­ron­ment that is close to the con­di­tion at the bot­tom of a land­fill.

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