Scientists discover fungus that feeds on plastic

A collage of mushrooms and plastic bottle waste has gone viral on social media. Users claim that these are species of mushrooms native to the Amazon that feed on plastic.

“It can live on plastic alone and without oxygen, which may pave the way for new bioremediation techniques,” the message says

That claim was also shared in February 2021

Fact check:

The claim is TRUE.

There have been several experiments with a few species of fungi that have found that they can break down plastic without the aid of oxygen.

According to an article in Treehugger.com, students on a Yale research trip in 2011 discovered a rare fungus in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. The fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, can grow on polyurethane, a polymer commonly used in plastic products, and use it as the sole source of carbon.

According to the Yale research team, the plain-looking light brown mushrooms can live in environments with or without oxygen by breaking down and digesting polyurethane before turning it into organic material.

In 2017, a team of scientists discovered another plastic-eating fungus in a general landfill in Pakistan. The fungus called Aspergillus tubingensis could break down polyester-polyurethane into smaller pieces after two months.

We can see the Yale students’ experiment in the video posted by Tech Insider on Youtube.

Discovery made in Pakistan could also be read in several other articles.

https://theprint.in/science/these-plastic-eating-fungi-may-be-the-answer-to-our-garbage-epidemic/121781/

https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/do-you-know-about-the-plastic-eating-fungus-discovered-in-pakistan-1506503862-1

The research is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/AEM.00521-11

An article on interstingengineering.com also talks about the scientific study on ‘Mycoremediation’ – an experimental technique that uses the natural ability of fungi to use enzymes to break down foreign substances. This cheap, effective and environmentally friendly technique has been used to decontaminate the environment by removing some pollutants from damaged ecosystems. ‘

According to a report published in Times of India.com, a group of researchers found tiny plastic-eating bacteria in Pirana, a permanent waste management site in Gujarat. The study discovered 17 classes of bacteria and 9 fungi that eat plastic.

The article “Landfill microbiome Harbor plastic-degrading genes: A metagenomic study of solid waste dumping site of Gujarat, India” was published in an Elsevier journal.

These mushrooms appear to digest food by secreting enzymes and reabsorbing the dissolved organic matter back into the cells.

https://news.sky.com/story/plastic-eating-fungus-could-help-fight-against-waste-11495833

While research is still ongoing, the claim that few species of fungi can break down plastic by feeding on them is TRUE.

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