This week we're talking about fungus two ways. One that can survive exclusively on polyurethane and another that can replace polystyrene foam.
Both polyurethane and polystyrene foam are not biodegradable, so without a solution, all the plastic bottles and old toys we throw out every year will be sitting in landfills for centuries.
Yes, you can recycle plastic, but that just means turning it into another product and recycling hasn't sufficiently slowed the production of new plastic.
According to a Yale study, globally we produced 245 million tons of plastic in 2006, compared to only 1.5 million tons in 1950.
One of the fungi we're looking at is called pestalotiopsis microspora. It was discovered by a group of Yale researchers on an expedition in Ecuador and can subsist on polyurethane alone in airless environments, like the bottom of a landfill.
The other comes from a couple of college friends who discovered that the sticky substance on the bottom of mushrooms called mycelium could be turned into a glue and when that glue is combined with corn husks and other food byproducts it takes on a form similar to polystyrene foam. Their company, Ecovative wants used polystyrene foam to become mulch, not waste.
A future with less plastic and more mulch, all thanks to fungus.