Best Tech Stories around the web #393

Plastic-eater mushroom


Scientists discover a plastic-eating mushroom by

An international team of marine scientists has discovered a fungus capable of consuming plastic in the North Pacific Garbage Patch. This discovery, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, identified the fungus Parengyodontium album among the microbial layers on the floating plastic debris.
P. album is the fourth known marine fungus able to decompose plastic waste, particularly UV-exposed polyethylene, commonly used in consumer products like water bottles and plastic bags.

Annika Vaksmaa, a marine biologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and lead author of the study, explains that although UV light is known to mechanically degrade plastic, it also facilitates its biological degradation by marine fungi. This discovery is significant as it offers a natural method to help reduce ocean plastic pollution. However, the degradation process by P. album is very slow, breaking down only 0.05% of a UV-treated plastic piece per day over a nine-day period. Therefore, it would take an immense amount of time to process the massive quantities of plastic present in the oceans.

While promising, this discovery does not mean that we can rely solely on these fungi to solve the plastic pollution problem. It is essential to reduce plastic use and prevent plastic waste from reaching the oceans. Removing existing plastic is complex and can disrupt marine life, making solutions challenging to implement. Nonetheless, this research suggests that other organisms capable of degrading plastic may exist, potentially offering new approaches to combat plastic pollution.

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