Scientists Have Discovered over 50 Species of Plastic-Eating Fungi in the Last Two Years

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If you feel a pang of guilt every time you throw a piece of plastic away and start spiraling into anxiety about the impending climate apocalypse — here is some news that may brighten your day.

Plastic is infamous for its ability to pollute the environment for years and years without degrading. But because the planet is magical, there are certain organisms that can degrade plastic. Dozens and dozens of them, apparently.

In 2011, students at Yale discovered a plastic-eating fungus in Ecuador called Pestalotiopsis microspora. This fungus can digest polyurethane, even in an air-free environment (like the bottom of a landfill).

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This breakthrough was already good news, but as researchers continued to turn their attention to the subject, it became clear that Pestalotiopsis microspora is not unique among fungi in its ability to degrade plastic.

Researchers at Utrecht University were able to achieve a similar result with Oyster mushrooms and Split gill mushrooms in the lab; this process even resulted in an edible end product. In 2017, scientist Sehroon Khan and his team found another biodegrading fungus in a landfill in Pakistan called Asperillus tubigensis, which is capable of breaking down polyester polyurethane (packing foam).

Sehroon and his team went on to find over 50 other species of plastic-eating fungus since 2017.

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Scientists still have a long way to go before this research is applicable on a large scale as a means of plastic recycling.

Still, this is proof that anything is possible here on Planet Earth. You never know where new solutions are going to come from.