IS PLASTIC WASTE PROBLEM CAN BE SOLVED WITH A FUNGUS?
Think of a type of fungus, a type of which can disrupt the integrity of waste plastics and turn it into raw materials for sustainable building materials.
We can’t deny that mushrooms have a big place in our lives. Many cheeses, pastries, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, penicillin and cholesterol are used in the construction of fungi. And only 7% of the world’s mushroom species have been discovered. About 350 mushrooms are already consumed by humans. In our oceans, one hundred and fifty tons of plastic waste is floated and almost eight tons of oil is added each year. Together with disposable plastics, it is expected that this number will exceed three times in 2050. One of the solutions is, of course, that we don’t scatter people’s garbage around, and that companies collect waste. If we do not pay attention, these wastes will come up one day in our table.
A recent discovery of scientists by the so-called aspergillus tubingensis fungus promises great hope for protecting the environment. And this type of fungus can be fed with plastic, without needing oxygen. This mushroom species, which was first discovered in Pakistan in 2017, is one of the biggest ecological solutions of environmental pollution. Aspergillus tubingensis fungus allegedly consumes the structure of plastic within weeks. In nature, the disappearance of plastic species takes years.
Aspergillus tubingensis fungus can grow on plastic surfaces and thanks to its secreted enzymes; it can break the bonds between plastic molecules and chemicals. Thus, this feature can be developed as a tool against the growing plastic waste problem.
One of the largest researches on Aspergillus tubingensis fungus is the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London, where it studies the types of fungi and categorizes them according to their utility levels. In many reports and articles they publish, they have found more than 2000 new types of mushrooms in 2017, and they are investigating the dangers and benefits that global warming creates on them. Some of these fungus species can also remove other soil pollutants. Aspergillus polyester polyurethane type plastic can be divided into very small parts in just two months. Polyester polyurethane is used in refrigerator insulations and synthetic leather.
Of course, this fungus is not the first organism discovered to have consumed plastic. In the past, several different types of bacteria were found to be fed with plastic. In 2017, the wax worm was found as a larger creature. This worm could break the integrity of the plastic and transform it into a wax-like form. Nature always finds a way to live and be cleaned, and these organisms are proof of that. With these microorganisms and more discoveries waiting for us, it seems that we can clean the plastic mountain clumps in a short time without any further damage.
But it has a risky dimension. According to a source they find abundant in these creatures and how much control can we keep under control when we want to use them for these purposes? When we solve our plastic waste problem over time, will we be revealing a new one? We will continue to follow the research.