Scientists at Kew Gardens and more than 100 other experts from 18 countries have teamed up to find a way and win the war on plastic and pollution.
According to other previous studies, the best candidate to solve this issue is fungi, stated senior scientist Dr. Ilia Leitch at Kew Gardens on 11 September:
“This is incredibly exciting because it is such a big environmental challenge. If this can be the solution, that would be great. We are in the early days of research but I would hope to see the benefits of fungi that can eat plastic in five to ten years.”
The research conducted by the international team found that the world’s fungi have properties that can be harnessed and developed to help break down plastic even faster than years.
The team compiled the paper, showing that many organisms can be used to decompose plastics, speed the production of biodiesel and clean up radioactive material.
Last year, a team of Chinese scientists found a fungus called Aspergillus tubingensis in a rubbish dump in Pakistan. This fungus broke down the bonds between plastic molecules and split them using its own mycelia – a process which took a few weeks rather than the decades needed for plastic to disintegrate on its own.
The report stated that “this ability has the potential to be developed into one of the tools desperately needed to address the growing environmental problem of plastic waste.”
Scientists also hope to used fungi to improve the recycling process and help plastics decompose sustainably. The report also wants to improve the image of fungi, highlighting its importance in creating yeast for beer, penicillin, washing powder and cheese.
Scientists only know about 7% of all types of fungi species, and according to the estimations, there could be a total of 3 million species of fungus on the planet – six times more than plants.
Ester Gaya, the senior mycologist at Kew, concludes that people must change the way they think about fungi:
“We would be covered in litter and dead matter if it weren’t for fungi, but there is still so much more to know about it.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.