One of the biggest problems with plastic (bottles, bags, toys, etc.) is that if it’s not recycled, and instead, tossed into a landfill, it can sit around for thousands of years before it starts to bio-degrade. And even longer if it’s at the bottom of a heap and not exposed to air.
Luckily, a group of students from Yale have discovered a mushroom that has the potential to eat through discarded plastic. The students, led by Professor Scott Strobel brought back native plant species from Ecuador and then cultured the microorganisms within the plant tissue. What they discovered was that one of those plants, a fungus, had a healthy appetite for plastic, specifically polyurethane.
According to Yale Alumni Magazine, the fungi, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is the first anyone has found to survive on a diet of polyurethane alone and even more intriguing, to do this in an oxygen-free environment that mimics the conditions one would find at the bottom of a landfill.
The Yale students are hopeful that one day this crazy mushroom could help eliminate generations of plastic sitting in landfills.