Read the Beforeitsnews.com story here. Advertise at Before It's News here.
Profile image
By Alton Parrish (Reporter)
Contributor profile | More stories
Story Views
Now:
Last hour:
Last 24 hours:
Total:

Plastic Eating Fungus Found in Dump, May Provide Path to Biodegradable Polymers

% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.


Nowadays, humans are producing ever greater amounts of plastic – much of which ends up as garbage. What’s more, because plastic does not break down in the same way as other organic materials, it can persist in the environment over extremely long periods of time.

Scientists from the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences have recently identified a fungus which could help deal with our waste problem by using enzymes to rapidly break down plastic materials. 

Plastic is used in the manufacture of an astonishing variety of materials: from the phone or computer on which you’re reading this article, to the car, bus or bike you use to get around, and even in many clothes, plastics are ubiquitous in the modern world.

 
The Biodegradation Process by Fungi.
 Image by KIB
 

However, the tremendous increase in the production and use of various manmade plastics has become a huge threat to the environment: plastic waste can choke waterways and soils, release harmful chemicals, and even poses a threat to animals which can mistake plastic debris for food. 

Plastic polymers take many years to decompose, as due to their xenobiotic nature – meaning that they did not exist before their synthesis by humans – they are not easily broken down by the bacteria, fungi and small creatures that feed on other waste matter. Even when they do somewhat degrade, tiny particles of plastic may persist in the environment, with unknown consequences for human and environmental health.

However, the authors of a new study titled “Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Aspergillus tubingensis” believethey may have found an unexpected solution to our growing plastic problem in the form of a humble soil fungus. 

Attempts to deal with plastic waste through burying, recycling or incineration are variously unsustainable, costly and can result in toxic byproducts which are hazardous to human health.

The authors of the recent article, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, therefore argue that we urgently need to find new, safer and more effective ways to degrade waste plastics. 

“We knew that one way to do this would be to look to solutions which already existed in nature, but finding microorganisms which can do the job isn’t easy”. In the end, the research team found their plastic-eating fungus living in an appropriate venue – a rubbish tip in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Watched by crows and vultures, the researchers took samples of soil and various pieces of rubbish in hopes of finding an organism which could feed on plastic waste in the same way that other fungi feed on dead plant or animal material. 

Aspergillus tubingensis is a fungus which ordinarily lives in the soil. In laboratory trials, the researchers found that it also grows on the surface of plastics. It secretes enzymes onto the surface of the plastic, and these break the chemical bonds between the plastic molecules, or polymers.

Using advanced microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, the team found that the fungus also uses the physical strength of its mycelia – the network of root-like filaments grown by fungi – to help break apart the polymers. Plastics which persist in the environment for years can be broken down by A. tubingensis in a matter of weeks, the scientists say. 

 
Aspergillus strains growing in a petri dish
Credit: Wikipedia

The fungus’ performance is affected by a number of environmental factors including pH, temperature and the type of culture medium used. According to Dr. Khan, “our team’s next goal is to determine the ideal conditions for fungal growth and plastic degradation”.

This could pave the way for large-scale use of the fungus in, for example, waste treatment plants, or for application in soils already contaminated by plastic waste. The discovery of A. tubingensis’ appetite for plastic joins the growing field of ‘mycoremediation’, which investigates the use of fungi in removing or degrading waste products including plastic, oil and heavy metals.

Mycologists estimate that only a small proportion of all fungi species have yet been described, which means that vast numbers of potentially useful species are still to be found. However, the destruction of habitats such as natural forests means that many fungi species are likely being lost before they can be identified, let alone tested for possible uses.

If this continues, we may come to rely more and more on those species we can find in man-made environments – and more scientists may find themselves doing fieldwork in rubbish tips rather than rainforests. 

 
 

Contacts and sources:
Sehroon Khan
Kunming Institute of Botany

Chinese Academy of Sciences



Before It’s News® is a community of individuals who report on what’s going on around them, from all around the world.

Anyone can join.
Anyone can contribute.
Anyone can become informed about their world.

"United We Stand" Click Here To Create Your Personal Citizen Journalist Account Today, Be Sure To Invite Your Friends.

Humic & Fulvic Liquid Trace Mineral Complex

HerbAnomic’s Humic and Fulvic Liquid Trace Mineral Complex is a revolutionary New Humic and Fulvic Acid Complex designed to support your body at the cellular level. Our product has been thoroughly tested by an ISO/IEC Certified Lab for toxins and Heavy metals as well as for trace mineral content. We KNOW we have NO lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum etc. in our Formula. This Humic & Fulvic Liquid Trace Mineral complex has high trace levels of naturally occurring Humic and Fulvic Acids as well as high trace levels of Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Potassium and more. There is a wide range of up to 70 trace minerals which occur naturally in our Complex at varying levels. We Choose to list the 8 substances which occur in higher trace levels on our supplement panel. We don’t claim a high number of minerals as other Humic and Fulvic Supplements do and leave you to guess which elements you’ll be getting. Order Your Humic Fulvic for Your Family by Clicking on this Link , or the Banner Below.



Our Formula is an exceptional value compared to other Humic Fulvic Minerals because...


It’s OXYGENATED

It Always Tests at 9.5+ pH

Preservative and Chemical Free

Allergen Free

Comes From a Pure, Unpolluted, Organic Source

Is an Excellent Source for Trace Minerals

Is From Whole, Prehisoric Plant Based Origin Material With Ionic Minerals and Constituents

Highly Conductive/Full of Extra Electrons

Is a Full Spectrum Complex


Our Humic and Fulvic Liquid Trace Mineral Complex has Minerals, Amino Acids, Poly Electrolytes, Phytochemicals, Polyphenols, Bioflavonoids and Trace Vitamins included with the Humic and Fulvic Acid. Our Source material is high in these constituents, where other manufacturers use inferior materials.


Try Our Humic and Fulvic Liquid Trace Mineral Complex today. Order Yours Today by Following This Link.

Report abuse

    Comments

    Your Comments
    Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

    MOST RECENT
    Load more ...

    SignUp

    Login

    Newsletter

    Email this story
    Email this story

    If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

    If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.