300 million tons of plastic made every year with nowhere to go – here’s some new technology which could fix that – plastic eating fungi
According to PlasticOceans there are 300 million tons of plastic made each year – of which over half are thrown away. It’s pretty much indestructible and it has some nasty habits, such as collecting toxins.
This video on the dangers of plastic to the world ecology has been made by Sir David Attenborough – it’s eye popping.
Biodegradable plastic takes between 20 and 1000 years to break down, so it’s not exactly going to solve the plastic pollution problem any time soon.
According to Engadget, two industrial designers and a group of microbiologists have designed a way to break down plastic – and create edible mushrooms in the process. To be precise, the team (the designers are from Vienna, Austria; the microbiologists are from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands) created something called the Fungi Mutarium, which is a glass dome that houses hollow egg-like pods containing bits of plastic in their cavities. These pods serve as food to nourish the fungi as they’re made of agar, sugar and starch, similar to agar plates used to culture organisms in labs.
Mycelia (the thread-like parts of a mushroom that another team used to create biodegradable drones) mixed in liquid are then dropped into the pods, eating through the agar and the plastic pieces as they grow. The result? Edible mycelia with a neutral taste. Obviously, small domes and pods like the team’s prototype can’t solve the world’s plastic problem, because it takes months for the fungi to eat through small pieces of plastic. The scientists are now looking for ways to speed up the process by manipulating the temperature, humidity and other elements of the environment inside the dome. They’re also considering genetically modifying the fungi to make them grow faster, although they first need to find more funding to make that happen.
At the rate of technological change that is now occurring, this has major potential to disrupt pollution over the next few years.