Like it or not, society has become dependent on plastic. It’s used for food preservation, the transport of water, medicine and healthcare and can be found almost anywhere in some form.
As we all know, plastic is a double-edged sword – massive amounts are piling up in landfills, floating through the depths of our once beautiful ocean and destroying our water supplies. Despite all of this, there seems to be no end in sight as we’ve become so dependent on the stuff. Growing on a yearly basis, plastic poses a mortal threat like no other.
This could all change – and a newly discovered mushroom may be the answer. Discovered in 2012 by Yale University students, Pestalotiopsis microspora is a rare species of fungus, found in the Amazon’s rainforest. This mushroom is capable of surviving on plastic alone – more specifically, on polyurethane, converting this man-made ingredient into pure, organic matter.
Not only does it destroy plastic, but it can also survive without oxygen. This means that the Pestalotiopsis microspora can literally clean our landfills – from the bottom-up.
The idea sounds fantastic right? Some scientists have suggested an idea which may stretch even further: If we targeted the community at hand and replaced dumping our trash at centralized landfills and instead had mushroom centered community composting centers or all possessed our own mini mushroom composting kits, we would surely speed things up dramatically – based on the Epoch Times.
Further, as it turns out, Pestalotiopsis microspora isn’t the only of it’s kind. Some of it’s kin are even safe for human consumption. Katharina Unger from Utrecht University led a study in the Netherlands, where oyster mushrooms and a few other varieties were placed in agar cups with plastic waste. They were held in a climate controlled dome-shaped environment and after roughly a month, the mushroom’s roots had converted the plastic into an edible, biomass food substance, completely free of toxins from the polyurethane.
 
Not only was it free of plastic, it actually had an appealing taste, described as “sweet with the smell of anise or licorice” according to Unger.
So yes, for the first time in history, we could actually make plastic trash part of our food chain, in a healthy, surprising way. Consider the benefits this could have in a world filled with millions of people who scarcely enjoy a proper meal.
“Our research partner [Utrecht University] expects that the digestion will go much quicker once processes are fully researched and optimized,” Unger told Dezeen magazine, adding that her team “imagined it as being used with a community or small farm setting.”
 
The benefits truly seem limitless. 
 
This research has since stretched even further – “mushroom bricks” were on display at the State of the World’s Fungi 2018 event in Kew Gardens, London. Imagine – a home built from sustainable, natural building material. 
 
Managing and eventually eliminating plastic should be a priority for us all right now, it is one of the hardest challenges our world will most likely face, but with the help of a small mushroom, the natural rate of decomposition can be reduced from 400 years to just a few months. 

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