Living off plastic
Huge quantities of plastic are being discarded every day, forming a continuous presence in our environment. As it takes a staggering 400 years for plastic to degrade, this waste heap is expanding rapidly. However, it has been discovered that edible fungi may be able to help solve our plastic problem. A fungus that was discovered in 2012 is able to survive on pure polyurethane, the most common kind of plastic. Experiments in Utrecht have recently had success cultivating edible oyster mushrooms that live off plastic.
The oyster mushrooms are grown in an environmental test chamber. This chamber contains cups made of agar, a substance resembling gelatine on which the fungi thrive. Plastic and oyster mushroom spores are then inserted into the cups. The mushrooms will digest the plastic within a month, after which they can be used for food. Katharina Unger of Utrecht University describes their taste as 'sweet, with a scent of anise or liquorice'.
These plastic-eating fungi can help accelerate the degradation process of plastic to a matter of mere months. The fungi also have two additional advantages. Not only can they reduce food scarcity while disposing of waste, some can even be used as a sustainable construction material.