Our friends in the USA have managed to isolate a Fungus which degrades polyurethane, a substance which is used in foams, seals, adhesives and hard and flexible plastic parts. The fungus has been named Pestalotiopsis microspora, a name which may become as well known as dehalococcoides (a hydrocarbon degrading bacteria widely used in bioremediation).
Excitement is being generated worldwide over this discovery, found during a Yale student’s field trip to Ecuador in 2008, the fungus can survive on a diet consisting entirely of polyurethane and can thrive in both aerobic and anaerobic environments indicating at this stage that treatment of buried plastics (e.g. those in landfills) may be possible.
At this stage I would expect that applications using Pestalotiopsis microspora would involve a bioreactor where complete control of the fungus and it’s by-products should be feasible. Hopefully we’ll be able to use the fungus out in the environment in the future, injecting it in to buried wastes.
The discovery has been published here.
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