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Scientists have discovered a fungus that could help to break down plastic


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Since the 1950s, the world has collectively produced '8.3 billion tons' of plastic. That's a lot of plastic left over. The main problem is that plastic just doesn't break down, at least not completely. Instead, we get microplastics which enter the food system and pollute our planet even further.

The honey mushroom

Image Credit: Mushroom Observer from Wikipedia

Although the mass production of plastic must come to a halt, it seems that hope is on the horizon. Scientists have discovered a fungus that could help to break down these plastics.Fungi are a fascinating organism. According to Kew Gardens, 'There may be as many as 3.8 million fungal species, but science has only named 144,000 of them '.

One of these species has turned out to be especially important. According to Sky News, the fungus Aspergillus tubingensis managed to 'biodegrade...polyester polyurethane (PU) into smaller just two months'.

These findings were a result of a study in Pakistan in which scientists 'isolated a fungus in the soil that quickly broke down chemical bonds'. 

Fungus is already known to have many environmental benefits. These organisms are vital in the ecosys
tem. They 'recycle 85 per cent of the carbon from dead organic matter and release the locked-up nutrients so they can be used by other organisms'.

Bottles Plastic Recycling

Image Credit: fotoblend from Pixabay

As well as this, 'Fungi can also feed on pollutants such as oil spills, toxic chemicals like sarin nerve gas and TNT, and even radioactive waste', which is pretty impressive. 

In a State of the World's Fungi report, scientists detail how some fungi could help plants to better withstand the effects of drought and increasing temperatures. Although we certainly want to try to stop these temperatures increasing altogether, it is good to know that the effects of extreme temperatures could be lessened by the presence of such a natural organism in the ecosystem.

Lead Image Credit: andersfloor from Pixabay

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