A type of fungus that can ‘eat’ plastic has been discovered in the Amazon rainforest. Students and professors from Yale University found that the fungi can break down a common type of plastic known as polyurethane (PUR).
This is backed up by Mark Osborn, Professor of Microbial Ecology at the University of Hull. He studied plastic that he’d buried in sand on beaches around the UK and found that it could be broken down by certain microorganisms.
These discoveries suggest that fungi could be used to help reduce the problem of plastic waste. However, at present, due to the incredibly large amount of plastic waste in the world, it would take a very long time to break down each piece of plastic in this way.
The plastic industry is concerned that the new discovery could threaten their business. At present, use of the fungus has been controlled but, if it escaped into the environment, it may start to break down plastics that are in use.