Most of us know by now that the plastic we’re using throughout our lifetime will still be around when our great great and, well, great grandchildren are roaming the Earth. That is, unless some Yale students decide to roam the Amazon and discover a fungus that eats plastic. Oh, wait! They did, and it turns out there is a type of fungus that feeds on polyurethane, a popular form of plastic used in many common products.
Pestalotiopsis microspora is the technical term for the fungi, and it’s the first anyone has seen that can survive strictly on a diet of polyurethane. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? Aside from the bizarre taste in non-renewable resources, it apparently has the unique ability of feeding off it in an oxygen-free environment, similar to the space in the bottom of a landfill.
With the number of products that have been made with polyurethane over the years, there is virtually no chance of this fungi going hungry. Everything from garden hoses to vehicle interiors to shoes has been created with polyurethane at some point, so if scientists can get this fungus into some public landfills, it could be one way to free up a little space and clean up the earth a bit.
Who knows, in the future we may be seeing heaps of fungi in place of trash compactors. This unique and extraordinary finding is just one of many reasons why it’s a terrible, terrible idea to destroy rainforest areas.