Did you know that some mushrooms can grow on plastic? That’s pretty crazy. Even if you did know that, did you know some rare forms of mushrooms can actually rely on polyurethane as its only source of carbon? Probably not. There’s a couple fun facts that help prove that you can learn something new every day!
If some mushrooms can really use plastic as their energy source and actual habitat, could this perhaps help humanity solve the big plastic problem?
What is the plastic problem?
Plastic became extremely widespread after the Second World War. However it emerged earlier at the turn of the century Since then its global use rose astronomically, and is still rising.
The big problem with plastic is that it takes over four hundred years to degrade. As a result, pretty much all of the plastic that has ever been created is actually still in existence. That is a LOT of plastic. Well, only 9% has been recycles and only 12% incinerated. That means 79% of all plastic ever made is still on the planet, slowly filling it up.
Where is all this plastic, you may ask? One super sad example is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Sounds like it’s made up? Well, it’s not. It is a depressing reality check of how humanity is so terrible at living within its own means and limits. If you don’t know about the GPGP, you can learn about it here.
Mushrooms may be able to help
Back to the mushrooms. A rare mushroom from the Amazon rainforest, Pestalotiopsis microspora, can grow on plastic and rely solely on the plastic for an energy source. Another one, Aspergillus tubingensis, is from Pakistan. It eats plastic waste. In a matter of two months the fungus colonizes the actual plastic itself, secreting enzymes to further break down the plastic into smaller pieces. Wow. There are even more examples across the world. This is research that we need to take more seriously. Mushrooms can lead the solution to our problems in so many ways, and this is yet another example!
We found the original article at Interesting Engineering. If you would like to read more, check it out here.