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Amazonian Rainforest Fungus Eats Polyurethane, Potentially Solving ...

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Amazonian Rainforest Fungus Eats Polyurethane, Potentially Solving a Big Landfill Problem
By Rebecca Boyle Posted 02.01.2012 at 3:17 pm

Plastic Bags in Landfill Samuel Mann via Flickr

To the multitude of arguments for protecting rainforest biodiversity, heres a new addition: An Amazonian fungus could eat our most durable landfill waste. A group of students from Yale found the fungus during an expedition to Ecuador and learned it breaks down polyurethane. This plastic is one of those modern chemical compounds found in so many products, its pointless to count from Spandex to garden hoses, for a start and it is prized for both its flexibility and rigidity. The problem is that like many other polymers, it does not break down readily. This means it persists in landfills, as Fast Company points out. It burns pretty well, but that releases carbon monoxide and other gases into the atmosphere, so its a nonstarter in most situations. Something that can degrade it naturally would be a better solution. The fungus called Pestalotiopsis microspora can subsist on a diet of polyurethane alone, and do so in an anaerobic environment, according to the researchers who found it. The Yale team isolated the enzyme that enables this fungus to do its work and noted it could be used for bioremediation. Its odd to think of a microorganism eating up a durable synthetic material, but this would not be a first, by a long shot; bacteria and fungi can break down lots of things. A bacterial species called Halomonas titanicae is eating the RMS Titanic, for instance. We just need to know where to find these hungry species and the rainforest is a good place to look. [Fast Company[
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Science, Rebecca Boyle, amazon rainforest, biodegradable plastic, fungi, fungus, microorganisms, new species, plastics, rainforest

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14 COMMENTS
02/01/12 at 3:49 pm Yes the first knee jerk feeling is we get rid of trash.
Robot

But also in life plastics are a good thing. The first thought came into my mind, what if I have a plastic heart, heart value or some other plastic thing in my body and I breathe this fungus thing? I like for this fungus to work, but it has to be manageable too. ............................. Science sees no further than what it can sense. Religion sees beyond the senses.
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1 of 3

2012/02/10 08:24 AM

Amazonian Rainforest Fungus Eats Polyurethane, Potentially Solving ...

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-02/rainforest-fungus-eats-...

ToomeyND

02/01/12 at 3:56 pm In other news, the rainforest was cut down to make room for a new landfill...
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D13

02/01/12 at 4:21 pm Wow, thats pretty awesome. "Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon."
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-my name here-

02/01/12 at 4:34 pm now why on earth would a fungus be able to metabolize polyurethane, and an environment where none exists in the first place? that's what I would like to know. -------------------------------------------------------------------------why learn from your own mistakes, when you could learn from the mistakes of others? The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible -Albert Ein
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02/01/12 at 5:14 pm Even if this was true, think about it: What would the fungus exhale as a byproduct? Couldn't whatever gas it is be potentially dangerous as well? And though the recycling of plastic is
PsychosomaticRob

very harmful with the release of carbon monoxide, we could still find a potentially safer way to recycle it. Plastic is also very useful, and you can't just get rid of it until a substitute is found. Also, how would people get the fungus and plastic in contact with each other? You'd either have to put all the plastic over in the rainforest, or ship the fungus to landfills if scientists couldn't just help it grow somewhere else. But it would be pretty amazing if this was true.
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BioZombie

02/01/12 at 11:09 pm well i hope if this is the new thing for getting rid of plastic its done in a confined environment dont need my plastic bowls eatin i would be one mad guy if i woke up and my midnight cereal bowl was gone...lol...
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TeXie

02/02/12 at 2:22 am Life always finds it's way. It will be interesting when your window, attached to the walls by PU-foam, falls out of the wall due to funghi attack. Sometimes inertness is really useful. Perhaps the politicians better should think about seeing the garbage as the gold mines of tomorrow and start to push recycling on a big scale instead of "landfilling" .
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quseio2

02/02/12 at 3:28 am my guess is the so called "rubber"trees are why it can eat poly,natural rubber isn't to dissimilar to poly
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bombastinator

02/02/12 at 5:06 am It could cause another giant landfill problem though. The liner used in most retired landfills to keep toxic waste from leaking into the ground water is made of what? POLYURETHANE. This is as much a potential catastrophe as a boon.
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matsci1

02/02/12 at 6:41 am Recycling is always an alternativeif people want to that is. Here in Germany the garbage is separated into Glass- deposited at drop off points located around the neighborhoods Paper- special dumpsters or green garbage cans Metal and Plastic---special yellow trashbags Bio---vegetable, food and cooking waste goes in the brown garbage can Rest garbage--- Grey garbage can. Anything that does not go into the other catagories.like a painted board or dry wall. There is actually very little that needs to be landfilled here. There are incinerating plants in a lot of cities that burn the garbage generate heat or
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2012/02/10 08:24 AM

Amazonian Rainforest Fungus Eats Polyurethane, Potentially Solving ...

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-02/rainforest-fungus-eats-...

electricity.

D13

02/02/12 at 7:26 am 7 billion people create a lot of garbage. all possibilities should be considered. most of the people in India/China/Africa are not recycling and those are the biggest populations. "Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon."
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02/02/12 at 10:59 am I'd hate to think they let this go mainstream for application and didn't consider the ramifications of it being ingested and possibly killing someone.
Porphy

It seems obvious to modify the fungi or find a way to use the enzyme specifically instead of the fungus.
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beefymclovin

02/02/12 at 11:56 am id like to the rate it eats it, possible byproducts, is it safe for human contact, and does it plan to take over the world? i can see some scientist gene splicing that code for digestion into a bacteria that digests plastics...
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02/03/12 at 5:28 pm I know of a team that's built a machine which uses a particular microwave frequency to break down rubber back into oil, very cleanly. But have they gotten any news?
Onihikage Link to this comment

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2012/02/10 08:24 AM