Mushrooms: The New Solution for our Plastic Problem?

Rens Overdijk
November 19th 2012

You cannot look around your local environment without seeing something made out of plastic. Almost all the stuff we buy is packaged in plastic. Since recycling packaging materials is difficult and expensive, these plastics are being moved to landfills to bio-degrade. If left undisturbed, this process could take more than a thousand years for the plastic lying on the bottom, where there is hardly any oxygen. Fortunately, researchers have recently found a fungus in the Amazon rainforest which is able to degrade the plastics.

In an expedition to discover plants and microorganisms in the Amazon, researchers discovered the first fungus species that could live on a diet of polyurethane and thrive in a climate without oxygen. This means that plastic on the bottom of a landfill might possible by broken down by Pestalotiopsis microspora or a similar species.

The mushroom is only found in the Amazon, a place without any plastics. Will this fungus have a future outside the rainforest?

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Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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