Portuguese scientists discover marine fungus that “eats plastic”

Groundbreaking news from a research project underway at Aveiro university reveals that scientists have found a marine fungus that literally eats its way through plastic.

With the problem of plastic build-up rapidly becoming one of the world’s major environmental conundrums, the discovery is nothing short of a game-changer.

As Teresa Rocha Santos, running the project, explains “recycling has failed as a solution to eliminate the plastic waste that continuously accumulates in the environment… the urgency of finding new ways to reduce this environmental threat becomes greater”.

Explains actionhub website, researchers have “aimed to mimic an aquatic environment in order to test the fungus”.

Intriguingly, they found that “it degraded 77 percent of microplastics within seven days”, says the article, quoting Teresa Rocha Santos as adding: “experiments were performed on a small scale in a 100-milliliter reactors using a volume of 50 milliliters of medium enriched with a minimum amount of nutrients, and 0.013 grams of microplastics.

“In between seven and 15 days, 0.100 grams of microplastics were removed”.

Actionhub says the Aveiro team is “optimistic that findings can be used to fight the ever-developing war against marine pollution”.

In collaboration with counterparts from Porto and the Catholic University., Aveiro’s scientists are “continuing their research to find out more about the fungus” which has been named Zalerion maritimum.

Developing the story, Jornal de Notícias reveals that Zalerion maritimum can be found along the Portuguese coast (not elaborating as to where exactly) as well as in Spanish, Australian and Malaysian waters.

In Malaysia, the fungus is also responsible for breaking down wood.

One of the issues to get round is that the white, spongy Zalerion maritimum, is “very small and only seeks out plastics as a food source if it cannot find anything else”.

For now, the Portuguese findings have been published in scientific magazine Science of the Total Environment.

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