Plastic and…Fungi?

Love Earth.

Something we all know: Nature. Is. Awesome.

Why are we leveling rain forests for corn and cattle, when there exists fungi that have the potential to partially solve the growing global waste-management crisis? Why are you ruining nature, big faceless corporations?! *shakes fist*

Because we are in a crisis. If you weren’t aware of it five minutes ago, you most certainly should come to terms with that fact now. We humans produce too much trash, too much waste and too much of it never sees the inside of a MRF (that’s Materials Recovery Facility to you) or a compost heap. And what do we do with all that waste? We bury it…in the ground…where it sits, for eternity. Maybe it was a great idea 50 years ago but we live in the 21st century! It’s time to step up our game and come up with a better solution.

So this fungi, this plastic-eating Amazonian wonder is a solution. Note the ‘a.’ As in…not the only one. One of the biggest things I took away from the 5th International Marine Debris Conference is that in the world of plastic pollution, there really is no silver bullet solution. No one way to deal with this problem. There is, however, silver buckshot. Many solutions to one problem. This fungi is one in many.

Pestalotiopsis microspora will be most useful in already-existing landfills, where right now there sits tons upon tons of plastic trash that are going nowhere anytime soon. For that part of the waste stream, this is a great solution. It would be totally awesome if scientists could figure out a way to safely multiply the fungi and apply it to the nations (dare I say the world’s?) landfills. Less plastic in the landfill means less chance of contamination of groundwater, healthier environments and healthier communities. Hip-hip, hooray!

BUT. (There’s always a but, isn’t there?)

We have a solution to something we’ve already created – landfills full of trash that literally just sits there, day in…day out, releasing methane and generally causing a ruckus underground. This fungi, if it comes to market, will be useful in breaking down all those undigestables taking up space in our hillsides.

So yes: get excited that nature is once again kicking ass and taking names but don’t get blinded by science. We can’t rely on nature to fix all of our problems (I think that’s asking quite a bit from Mamma Earth) but we can do something about our over-consumptive lifestyle. It would do us all a lot of good to take a step back from that and perhaps take note of things we have the power to change. How about producing less waste in the first place? We can’t let this fungi become a crutch  to our current way of life, because that is just not sustainable. Eventually, we’ll have to face our waste problem and the sooner, the better.


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