Make you Fink on Friday

It would appear to be an environmentalist’s dream come true.

Fungi Discovered In The Amazon Will Eat Your Plastic

Mushrooms (not Pestalotiopsis microspora)

Polyurethane seemed like it couldn’t interact with the earth’s normal processes of breaking down and recycling material. That’s just because it hadn’t met the right mushroom yet.

The Amazon is home to more species than almost anywhere else on earth. One of them, carried home recently by a group from Yale University, appears to be quite happy eating plastic in airless landfills.

The group of students, part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory with molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, ventured to the jungles of Ecuador. The mission was to allow “students to experience the scientific inquiry process in a comprehensive and creative way.” The group searched for plants, and then cultured the microorganisms within the plant tissue. As it turns out, they brought back a fungus new to science with a voracious appetite for a global waste problem: polyurethane.

The common plastic is used for everything from garden hoses to shoes and truck seats. Once it gets into the trash stream, it persists for generations. Anyone alive today is assured that their old garden hoses and other polyurethane trash will still be here to greet his or her great, great grandchildren. Unless something eats it.

Source: co.Exist Read more


Now I ask myself, if millions of tons of plastic can be eaten by mushrooms, we will have millions of tons of mushrooms, what good are the mushrooms?

Monster Mushrooms

There is no indication that they are edible, maybe they can be composted, maybe they will mutate and we’ll have monster mushrooms invading the planet.

At least, I guess they are compostable

Will Monsanto try to GM them? That’s a scary thought.

Pestalotiopsis microspora

This is the actual fungi involved.

I’m not the expert, and don’t understand how this relates to a mushroom, but it doesn’t stop me from wondering about the results of our meddling.

Wondering what happens when we change the diet of these mushrooms to pure plastic. What happens to the cellular structure. If they prove edible, are the mutant changes going to be passed on to the eaters?

What by-products, residue or effluent are left after the mushrooms have devoured the plastic? Are they going to produce some equally hazardous gas/es like methane and turn our planet into a warmer version of Neptune which, I believe, has a frozen methane atmosphere?

Irradescent Mushrooms

Or, maybe they’ll just glow in the dark and we’ll have pretty blue mushrooms everywhere.

So many questions.

Let’s face it, we have jumped the gun before on many issues, only to find them eventually detrimental.

It all sounds wonderful, too good to be true, but I am left with nagging doubts.

How about you?

4 responses to this post.

  1. Awesome. What would we do without fungus? No chanterelles, no porcinis, no hericiums, no truffles, no beer, no penicillin, no. . .



    • @Jack, personally I like fungi, I wrote about chanterelles recently on my cooking blog. But feeding them on a diet of pure plastic, I’m not so sure about that.

      Thanks for the visit and comment.




  2. Posted by Robiodo on February 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    For what it’s worth, a fungus is one member of a large group that includes yeast, mold, and mushrooms. Athlete’s Foot, that’s caused by a fungus, as is the blue, fuzzy mold on whatever it is you left in the back of the fridge long ago. Fungi generally rely on carbon for their metabolism, and can get it from things such as nitrate, ammonia, ethanol, and as we have recently learned, polyurethane plastic. The chemical backbone of almost all plastic materials (AKA polymers) is carbon molecules.
    While this is an interesting scientific discovery, it will take extensive engineering to get this fungus down into a landfill, be sure it lands on polyurethane, and keep it from chowing down on some more easily obtainable carbon down there.
    In the meantime, recycle your plastic. Virtually all of it, even foam and film, can be recycled, and you might think about getting into the plastic recycling business yourself. It’s growing, it can be profitable, and it cleans up the environment.



    • @Robioda, aware of all you say, the news that interested me was the apparent news that this particular fungus seemed more promising. Also, that I was expressing concern at possible collateral effects. Some of what I wrote was tongue-in-cheek, but that is my style. I am at the wrong end of life to begin considering changes, I’ll continue teaching English and recycling as I can.

      Thanks for the visit and comment, appreciated.




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