The fungus among us: A new way of decomposing BPA-containing plastic

Jul 28, 2010
Fungi may provide an eco-friendly way of decomposing polycarbonate plastic waste that contains bisphenol A. Credit: American Chemical Society

Just as cooking helps people digest food, pretreating polycarbonate plastic — source of a huge environmental headache because of its bisphenol A (BPA) content — may be the key to disposing of the waste in an eco-friendly way, scientists have found. Their new study is in ACS' Biomacromolecules.

Mukesh Doble and Trishul Artham note that manufacturers produce about 2.7 million tons of plastic containing each year. Polycarbonate is an extremely recalcitrant plastic, used in everything from screwdriver handles to eyeglass lenses, DVDs, and CDs. Some studies have suggested that the BPA may have a range of adverse health effects, sparking the search for an environmentally safe way of disposing of waste plastic to avoid release of BPA.

The scientists pretreated polycarbonate with and heat and exposed it to three kinds of fungi — including the fabled white-rot fungus, used commercially for environmental remediation of the toughest pollutants. The scientists found that fungi grew better on pretreated plastic, using its BPA and other ingredients as a source of energy and breaking down the plastic. After 12 months, there was almost no of the untreated plastic, compared to substantial decomposition of the pretreated plastic, with no release of BPA.

Explore further: Four billion-year-old chemistry in cells today

More information: "Biodegradation of Physiochemically Treated Polycarbonate by Fungi", Biomacromolecules.

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Caliban
not rated yet Jul 28, 2010
Pretty damned sketchy on the details, but if the results stand, and the "no release of BPA" isn't just code for "BPA is broken down into three other toxic daughter products", then this is a hopeful, and very useful development that can be implemented to counter one of the most pervasive environmental toxins known.
MikeLisanke
not rated yet Aug 15, 2010
The truly wonderful thing about science is nobody can tell what one step leads to magic.