A group of Yale students on an annual expedition in the rain forests of Ecuador have discovered a new fungus that feasts on polyurethane (plastic).
The Rainforest Expedition ventured into the jungles under supervision of molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel. The group brought back a wide range of flora samples and among them discovered something that could very well be used in solving one of big global waste problems: how to deal with plastics.
Pestalotiopsis microspora is the name of this newly discovered fungi with an appetite for plastic. It can survive in an oxygen-free environment on nothing but plastic, a material which could take as many as 500 years to degrade naturally, if not longer.
The findings were published in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal concluding the mushroom is a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for properties useful for bioremediation.
Imagine landfills covered in fungi, happily away the world’s biggest trash problem. We can’t help but wonder what other pressing global concern a mushroom will solve next.