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.

Jim West

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.]