Plastic. It floods the oceans, strangles marine life and sullies our streets. When burnt, it spits out toxic chemicals into the atmosphere in gargantuan quantities, and its petrochemical construction means it doesn’t like to decompose.
Yet it is a global addiction, as presently around 100 million tonnes (500,000 whopping blue whales) of the stuff is consumed worldwide. This rather malicious material appears to be brainwashing us all with its shiny convenience.
However, a new hope has arisen after a group of students from Yale University stumbled upon what they believe to be a plastic-eating fungus in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
As part of Yale’s well-heeled Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory educational programme, the students found the fungus (which breaks down the common plastic polyurethane) after testing a collection of microorganisms.
They reported, “endophytes were isolated from plant stems collected in the Ecuadorian rainforest”…“a subset of these organisms was screened for their ability to degrade polyurethane”.
The results are a world first, as never before have plant endophytes been positively tested to degrade synthetic materials. It’s also hoped further testing will reveal these endophytes could murder types of plastic other than polyurethane. Take that plastic!
With palpable excitement, the students also reported “endophytes reach their greatest diversity in tropical forests. Individual trees can harbour hundreds of endophytic species, some of which are known but many of which are new to science”.
While many believe the machiavellian plastic monster could now have a real fight on its hands, Peter Tim-tom, anthropologist from Realists United In Need (RUIN), thinks otherwise. He says the real problem lies with the planet’s rather stupid apex predator, the Homo sapien.
He says while nature has been dropping us enormous hints to clean up our mess, we seem bent on destroying the clues. As in the time it took you to read this article, an area of Brazil’s rainforest larger than 50 football fields will have been destroyed.
On a brighter note, a man in Nigeria has made a banjo out of a plastic bottle. He plays it well, and it has made him very happy.