Correction. Should be "polyethylene".
The scam in this article is revealed when we realize that microbes already are
well known (by the plastics industry) to readily digest polyurethane here in the
US. You don't have to go to the Amazon to find such fungi. Plastics contain
imbedded poisons to prevent degradation by microbes.
On Fri, 3 Feb 2012 14:50:55 -0500, S E Anderson <[log in to unmask]>
>January 30, 2012
>Fungi Discovered In The Amazon Will Eat Your Plastic
>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.
>by Michael J. Coren
>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
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.
>The fungi, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is the first anyone has found to
on a steady diet of polyurethane alone and--even more surprising--do this in
an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that is close to the condition at the
bottom of a landfill.
>Student Pria Anand recorded the microbe's remarkable behavior and
Russell isolated the enzymes that allow the organism to degrade plastic as its
food source. The Yale team published their findings in the journal Applied and
Environmental Microbiology late last year concluding the microbe is "a promising
source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for
bioremediation." In the future, our trash compactors may simply be giant fields
of voracious fungi.
>Who knows what the students in the rainforest will turn up next?
>[Michael Coren covers science, economics and the environment. He is the
cofounder of the multimedia production studio + newsroom MajorPlanet Studios.
He writes from San Francisco.]