Will the Landfills of the Future Be Fields of Fungi?

In 2012, a group of molecular biochemistry students from Yale University ventured into the Amazon Rainforest to collect plant samples, which they cultured in a lab to learn more about the microorganisms within. With one, they hit the jackpot: the fungus Pestalotiopsis microspora was able to grow on a pure diet of polyurethane, a common form of plastic. What's more, it was happy to chow down in an oxygen-free environment like those at the bottom of landfills. But that's not the end of fungus's potential for sustainability. A European team of microbiologists and designers are using a similar fungus in their prototype Fungi Mutarium, a dome-like incubator that's designed to break down plastic and replace it with a fungus fluff that's safe to eat.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Scientists have started using fungus to break down plastic in much less time than it takes to break down on its own. 00:19

  2. Whale poop may help regulate the earth's climate by encouraging the growth of krill and plankton, which absorb a large amount of carbon. 01:17

  3. Sepios is an underwater robot inspired by cuttlefish that can navigate thick tangles of grass without getting stuck. 03:20

Written by Curiosity Staff May 25, 2016

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