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06 February 2012

Pestalotiopsis microspora - Fungi that eats plastic

Dear all,

You may know that plastic is processed from petroleum, and is commonly cited as an ecological problem due to its non-biodegradability. Interestingly enough, a fungus - Pestalotiopsis microspora - has been discovered in the Amazon forest by a research team from Yale University, that appears to eat plastic in airless landfills. Fast Company, in its Co-Exist blog, writes:

The group of students, part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory with molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, ventured to the jungles of Ecuador. The mission was to allow "students to experience the scientific inquiry process in a comprehensive and creative way." The group searched for plants, and then cultured the microorganisms within the plant tissue. As it turns out, they brought back a fungus new to science with a voracious appetite for a global waste problem: polyurethane.

The common plastic is used for everything from garden hoses to shoes and truck seats. Once it gets into the trash stream, it persists for generations. Anyone alive today is assured that their old garden hoses and other polyurethane trash will still be here to greet his or her great, great grandchildren. Unless something eats it.

The fungi, 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.

(Ref: Fast Company - Co-Exist. Fungi Discovered in the Amazon Will Eat Your Plastic. URL: http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679201/fungi-discovered-in-the-amazon-will-eat-your-plastic Accessed: 06th February 2012.)

Now, if only we can farm this fungi, we can grow enough culture of the  to solve the landfill problems of the world. Let's hope that Malaysia will be one of the countries to look into the matter. For further reading on the story:

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