Beijing, Mar 25 (UNI/Xinhua): Researchers from the Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found a marine fungus species that can efficiently degrade polyethylene and other plastics, with some plastics degraded into pieces in merely two weeks.
The research team led by Sun Chaomin has collected over 1,000 pieces of plastic garbage since 2016, and they found the fungus on one sample of the plastics. In about four months, the fungus can cause the plastic to shrink and its colour change, and generate small fragments. It has been confirmed that the fungus can exhibit a degradation efficiency of about 95% and is harmless to the environment, Sun said.
The researchers have improved the culture condition and degradation efficiency of the fungus. Polyester polyurethane and biodegradable plastics can be degraded to fragments within two weeks by the fungus.
The research team has applied for a national patent for their study result. Every year, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic waste are estimated to flow into the ocean and become microplastics entering the global food chain, posing a major threat to the marine ecosystem. Marine fungi are considered a promising candidate for plastic degradation and may offer new solutions to global plastic pollution, Sun noted.