Scientists discover plastic-eating fungus in Islamabad

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Chinese scientists have found a plastic-eating fungus in Pakistan

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From plastic bags to bottles, to food wrappers and cups, we are producing ever greater amounts of plastic – much of which ends up as garbage. This is a big issue because plastic does not break down in the same way as other organic materials, it can persist in the environment over hundreds of years.

Interestingly enough, scientists found the solution to plastic pollution in garbage site in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Kunming Institute of Botany and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)  have found a plastic-eating fungus that could potentially help us to address the problem of non-biodegradable plastics.

The authors of the study titled “Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Aspergillus tubingensis” believe they have found an unexpected solution to our growing plastic problem in the form of a humble soil fungus.

The fungus called ‘Aspergillus tubingensi’ is able to break down waste plastics in a matter of weeks that would otherwise persist in the environment for years.

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Aspergillus tubingensis

Aspergillus tubingensis is typically found in soil, but the study found that it can also thrive on the surface of plastics. It secretes enzymes which break down the bonds between individual molecules and then use its mycelia to break them apart.

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Potential of fungus

This fungus can break down plastic that would normally take years to decompose within weeks that would otherwise persist in the environment for years. The species could be a useful tool as we attempt to reduce the impact of

The species could be a useful tool as we attempt to reduce the impact of waste material on the environment.

The next step for these researchers is to figure out what conditions would be ideal to help facilitate a practical implementation of the plastic-eating fungus.

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plastic pollution

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Salma Khan
Salma writes on topics ranging from education to technology to business. She can be reached at Twitter and Facebook.

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