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Melissa Hutsell is an award-winning freelance journalist with a deep rooted passion for both community and international journalism. She was born and raised in Northern California, and has lived, studied, worked, and traveled in more 20 different countries. Melissa holds a Master's degree in Global Journalism from City University London, as well as degrees in Journalism and Globalization from Humboldt State University. Though she covers various topics as both a writer and editor, she specializes in business and cannabis journalism.
Fungi are everywhere. They are in our food, alcohol, and medicine. We use them to brew beer and bake bread, and now, scientists have discovered they can be used as an ally in the fight against plastic pollution.
The fungus Aspergillus tubingensis was found to break down plastic in a matter of weeks rather than years, according to a recent report published by Kew Gardens. The fungus was discovered in Pakistan. It can erode polyester polyurethane, which is found in insulation and synthetic leathers, the article reports.
The findings are particularly exciting considering that the rate of plastic pollution is expected to triple in the next 30 years. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the seas than fish.
Humans are already using fungi in innovative ways. But just as there are potential benefits to be found in the fungal kingdom, there are also detriments.
Kathy Willis of Kew Gardens said that fungi's “ability to play both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde roles within their environments is unparalleled,” adding that “the fungal kingdom includes yeast, [….] but also includes some of the most economically damaging pathogens threatening food security and natural ecosystems."
If anything, she said, digging into the data on fungi has been a real eye-opener.