I got an intriguing tip from a WordPress blog, The Yoga Hub, about Yale students who found a microbe that eats plastic. The discovery spells hope for breaking down plastics in landfills.
Bruce Fellman writes in the Yale Alumni Magazine, “A group of student bioprospectors from Yale has struck environmental gold in the jungles of Ecuador. The students, through the annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory course taught by molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, have discovered a fungus with a powerful appetite for polyurethane. That common plastic often winds up buried in landfills, where it can remain, largely unaltered, for generations.
“In the September issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Jonathan Russell ’11 and his colleagues describe how they isolated, from plants collected during the class’s two-week spring trips, a fungus they identified as Pestalotiopsis microspora—and then discovered its unique polyurethane-digesting talents.” More here.
Sounds promising, but I can’t help worrying about the possible unintended consequences of introducing a microbe to places where it is not native. Maybe cutting back on plastics is still the way to go.
Photograph: Yale University