Fungi are said to be the grand recyclers of the planet. Proving the point, Indian scientists have identified two types of fungi which can potentially help degrade polythene. Researchers led by Dr Avinash Ade at Savitribai Phule University, Pune, have identified fungi with high polythene degradation potential from mangrove rhizosphere soil collected from 12 different locations in five coastal States — Kerala, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Goa. All these places are the plastic dumping sites with growing mangroves surrounded by marine water.
Lab tests indicated one strain of fungus, MANGF1/WL, which caused a 50 per cent loss in polythene weight while another strain, PNPF15/TS, caused a 94 percent reduction in the material’s strength.It was also discovered that the fungi is relatively safe for the environment. The two fungi are less toxic to the plants and marine life when compared to other fungi.
However, scientists are still trying to figure out the exact enzyme the fungi uses to break down the polythene. Also, there is no data on how long would it take for the fungi to break large amounts of plastic.