Pakistani and Chinese researchers have discovered a fungus which feeds on plastic in a rubbish dump in Islamabad.

A study titled "Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Aspergillus tubingensis", authored by nine researchers from Pakistan and China ─ who stress the need for "new, safer and more effective ways to degrade waste plastic" ─ found that the fungus aspergillus tubingensis can break down non-biodegradable plastic in weeks by secreting enzymes which pull apart individual molecules.

Lead author of the study, Dr Sehroon Khan from the World Agroforestry Centre/Kunming Institute of Biology, was quoted by the World Agroforestry Centre as saying that her team had been looking for ways to degrade waste plastic that "already existed in nature".

"We decided to take samples from a rubbish dump in Islamabad, Pakistan, to see if anything was feeding on the plastic in the same way that other organisms feed on dead plant or animal matter," she said.

The study says that the fungus was tested in liquid, soil and Sabouraud Dextrose Agar (SDA) plate — that is primarily used for the isolation of dermatophytes, other fungi and yeasts — in order to discover the ideal conditions for it to be most effective.

Khan and her team discovered that while the fungus decomposed plastic in all three mediums, bio-degradation was highest when it was cultured on an SDA plate, followed by liquid and soil respectively.

According to the World Economic Forum, the fungus lives in soil but researchers say that it can also survive on plastic surfaces.

On its own, the plastic can take decades to decompose and is dangerous as it can carry carcinogens as well as other lethal pollutants.

The discovery of Aspergillus tubingensis can prove to be a solution to this threat. The fungus can be used in waste treatment plants to treat plastic particles that have polluted water supplies as well as soil.

The discovery of Aspergillus tubingensis is the most recent in the field of mycoremediation, a process that uses fungus to degrade polluting substances.

Follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

Slow start
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Slow start

Despite high attendance, the NA managed to pass only a single money bill during this period.
Sindh lawlessness
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Sindh lawlessness

A recently released report describes the law and order situation in Karachi as “worryingly poor”.
Punjab budget
15 Jun, 2024

Punjab budget

PUNJAB’S budget for 2024-25 provides much fodder to those who believe that the increased provincial share from the...
Budget and politics
Updated 14 Jun, 2024

Budget and politics

PML-N, scared of taking bold steps lest it loses whatever little public support it has, has left its traditional support — traders — virtually untouched.
New talks?
14 Jun, 2024

New talks?

WILL this prove another false start, or may we expect a more sincere effort this time? Reference is made to the...
A non-starter
14 Jun, 2024

A non-starter

WHILE the UN Security Council had earlier this week adopted a US-backed resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza...