Researchers from Yale found a plastic eating fungus in a tropical rain forest in 2011, and the prospect of breaking down electronic landfill waste is now very real. In fact, several types of fungus are able to break down many types of toxic chemicals, but one particular kind can eat polymer polyester polyurethane or PUR. The process is called bioremediation, and researchers have now isolated the enzyme inside the fungus that can break down the plastics. Now all that needs to happen is to mass produce it and it can be put to use in landfills to decompose the plastics inside.
Unfortunately, even though many types of plastic, including polyurethane, are recyclable, they often end up in landfills. This discovery is doubly remarkable because not only can Pestalotiopsis microspora eat plastic, it can do it in an environment completely devoid of oxygen. That's exactly the kind of place that exists at the bottom of a landfill. As the e popularity of mobile electronics grows, no doubt landfills will end up with more and more disposed of technology the microbes can digest. While recycling is an option, many people don't know where to take their old gadgets, and burning plastic is just as bad as burying it in the ground.
The microbe in question was found in Ecuador and is known as an endophytic fungus. Researchers think the microbe breaks down plastic using an enzyme called serine hydrolase. That it can do so without oxygen and live off nothing else but plastic is a revelation, and holds the promise that other, undiscovered organisms could also be found to help breakdown other kinds of plastic and toxins. The Yale team published their findings in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Tell us in the comments if you think this is a great find or if you think it would be to dangerous to try and control.