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Everyone’s welcome to the ugly bug ball

Image result for aspergillus tubingensis plastic

The actor Burl Ives may not be well remembered to many millennial’s but to a certain generation he lives on in their memories with the song ‘Ugly Bug Ball’ where all the ugly bugs were welcomed to a ball until they blossomed into fully fledged and beautiful butterflies. Well something similar to this metamorphosis has been quietly going to and it’s all thanks to Mother Nature.

Man has been polluting the beautiful planet Earth with garbage and in particular plastic waste for the last seventy odd years. Great mountains of the stuff are buried in the ground in a kind of out of sight out of mind kind of way, or thrown away casually only to end up washing ashore with each new tide.

The latest research into ways to combat this curse of the modern age has resulted in an unlikely and, forgive for saying this, unattractive hero. Experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens who were working on a rubbish dump outside Islamabad in Pakistan in 2017 discovered plastic eating organisms that might provide the solution to our global problem.

The Pakistani dump provided the scientists with Aspergillus tubingensis a strain of fungus that produces an enzyme that breaks down the even the strongest and most durable plastic compounds including polyester polyurethane and moreover it doesn’t take centuries – it takes just weeks to digest the plastic. This particular fungus was previously thought of as a plague within the food industry as it is most commonly found as a dark mold on stored fruit and cereals. Now the fungus has, according to the World Agroforestry Centre, evolved to see plastics as a food source.

The experts at Kew want to do more research but believe that within five years a development of the fungus could be put to use clearing the ocean’s of the tidal wave of plastics that pollute our planet’s seas and oceans.

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