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Plastic-Eating Fungi May Solve the Earth’s Garbage Problem

Fungus Eats Plastic
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

A group of students from Yale University have discovered a species of fungi in the Amazon that eats the common plastic polyurethane. And, what’s more, Pestalotiopsis microspora can nosh on plastic even in an oxygen-free environment, which makes it perfect to survive in a landfill. There you go! Earth’s waste management problem has just been solved! (Not really, but it’s a start.)

The students discovered the amazing fungi during Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory while traveling in the jungles of Ecuador. Given its diet and ability to survive in harsh conditions, the fungi could be used to break down non-biodegradable plastics, which might otherwise last for centuries in landfills.

The students published their incredible findings in the Applied and Environment Microbiology Journal last year, and concluded that the fungi is “a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for bioremediation.” In other words, it eats garbage and it’s happy to do it.

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