This newly discovered ocean fungus eats plastic

Marine scientists have found a new species of fungus named Parengyodontium album (P.album), which is capable of breaking down plastic. This finding marks the fourth known marine fungus with this ability. P. album was discovered among microbes on the floating plastic  in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and can degrade polyethylene, a common and pervasive plastic used in consumer products like water bottles and grocery bags.


UV light helps in the mechanical breakdown of plastic and facilitates its biological degradation by marine fungi, so the process only works at the ocean surface. In lab conditions, P. album degrades UV-treated plastic at a rate of approximately 0.05 percent per day over nine days, meaning it would take a significant amount of time to address the vast amounts of oceanic plastic waste.

But despite the slow degradation rate, the discovery of P. album is encouraging. Researchers believe that more plastic-eating organisms may exist, noting that marine fungi can decompose complex carbon-based materials and that other species likely contribute to plastic degradation as well. The plastic pollution crisis is by no means easy to solve, so any possible way to reduce garbage in our oceans is important, and the discovery of P.album could be the first step towards a new biological solution.