Researchers Find a Fungus that Can Break Down Plastic in Weeks

Who knew fungus could be so helpful.

9. 14. 17 by Brad Jones
Getty Images
Image by Getty Images

Fungi Feast

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Kunming Institute of Botany have found a fungus that could potentially help us to address the problem of non-biodegradable plastics. The fungus is able to break down waste plastics in a matter of weeks that would otherwise persist in the environment for years.

Aspergillus tubingensis is typically found in soil, but the study found that it can also thrive on the surface of plastics. It secretes enzymes which break down the bonds between individual molecules and then use its mycelia to break them apart.

It’s thought that there are all types of fungi with useful properties that we don’t yet know about — but as deforestation and other human activity continue to destroy habitats, we might never gain access to such species. The researchers actually found Aspergillus tubingensis on a rubbish dump in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Plastic Potential

The study observed that there are several factors that affect the fungus’ capacity to break down plastic. The temperature and pH balance of its surroundings, as well as the type of culture medium in place, had an impact on its performance.


The next step for these researchers is to figure out what conditions would be ideal to help facilitate a practical implementation.

The fungus could be used to help address the problem of plastic particles swimming around in our water supply by being put to work in a waste treatment plant, or in soil contaminated with the material. The benefits of mycoremediation — the practice of using fungi to degrade unwanted substances — are becoming more and more apparent as we find species that can degrade more varieties of material.

Futurism Readers: Find out how much you could save by switching to solar power at By signing up through this link, may receive a small commission.

Share This Article

Keep up.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep in touch with the subjects shaping our future.
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement and Privacy Policy


Copyright ©, Camden Media Inc All Rights Reserved. See our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Data Use Policy. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Futurism. Fonts by Typekit and Monotype.