Even though green is in and reducing waste is all the rage today, humans still consume great amounts of plastic every day. Much of these plastics end up in dumpsters and our oceans. And since plastic does not break down the same way and as fast as organic materials do, it can stay in our environment for hundreds of years. It can clog drainage systems, endanger animals, and release harmful chemicals.
In addition to environmental cleanups, eco-friendly lifestyles, and worldwide green campaigns, there might be a new way to deal with the world’s plastic waste problem. Scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Kunming Institute of Botany in China have recently discovered a fungus that uses enzymes to rapidly break down plastic materials.
The soil fungus, Aspergillus tubingensis, was found in samples taken from a rubbish dump in Islamabad, Pakistan.
A new study titled “Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Aspergillus tubingensis” details the scientists’ findings. Dr Sehroon Khan of the World Agroforestry Centre/Kunming Institute of Biology, and lead author of the study, said in a statement:
“We wanted to identify solutions which already existed in nature, but finding microorganisms which can do the job isn’t easy. We decided to take samples from a rubbish dump in Islamabad, Pakistan, to see if anything was feeding on the plastic in the same way that other organisms feed on dead plant or animal matter.”
Laboratory trials showed that the fungus, aside from growing on soil, can also grow on the surface of plastics.
Piece of plastic showing holes eaten by black fungal growth.
The fungus then secretes enzymes onto the surface of the plastic, and the enzymes break the chemical bonds between the plastic molecules or polymers. Further tests showed that the fungus can break down the polymers, too, meaning plastics which would otherwise remain in the environment for years can be broken apart by the fungus in just a matter of weeks.
The fungus’ performance is affected by environmental factors such as pH levels, temperature, and the type of culture medium used.
Electron microscope photograph of plastic, showing cracks caused by fungal growth.
The researchers believe identifying the best factors for the fungus to achieve optimum performance could pave the way for large-scale waste treatment projects.
This could be the solution to our waste problem that threatens the environment.
The discovery of the A. tubingensis joins the growing field of mycoremediation, which explores the use of fungi in removing or degrading waste products including plastic, oil, and heavy metals. Mycologists believe that only a small proportion of all fungi species that can break down waste products have been identified.
Top 10 Horrible Ways The Universe Can Destroy Us
The universe is scary in more ways than you could imagine.
The universe is scary in more ways than you could imagine. A quick research on the internet will give you a rough idea of how it tried to wipe out life forms on this planet a few times already.
Worst of all, it could happen again and it could happen anytime. From giant destructive fireballs, to colliding galaxies, bask in fear with these 10 horrible ways the universe could destroy us.
Scientists Came Up With A Song Guaranteed to Make Your Baby Laugh with Pleasure
Parents and babies, listen up.
Parenting is tough, especially when you're dealing with infants who can't yet articulate what they're feeling. Nothing is more frustrating than doing everything you can to soothe your crying baby only to fail again and again. Well, here's something to help moms and dads everywhere.
Child development expert Caspar Addyman and musical psychologist and Lauren Stewart were commissioned by U.K. baby food manufacturer Cow & Gate for a special mission - to create a baby-friendly pop hit that's scientifically "proven to make babies happy."
The experts hired Grammy-winning composer and vocalist Imogen Heap for the project.
Russian Scientists Will Blast Frozen Dead People and Pets Into Space Soon
This is ideal for those who want an ‘out-of-this-world’ send-off!
If you’re that kind of person who wants to have a special send-off when you die, you might want to check out what Russia has to offer. Apparently, a firm in the country is planning to launch frozen corpses (both of people and pets) as well as DNA samples into space.
In a recent news circulating online, multi-million company KrioRus has confirmed that they will soon be blasting cryogenically-preserved dead people into the atmosphere. Sounds like an absurd idea, you say? Well, read on and learn more!