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Scientists Found an Edible Mushroom That Eats Plastic, and It Could Clean Our Landfills

Elias Marat

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Whether we like it or not, our society has become completely reliant on plastic. From food preservation to water transportation, computer technology to healthcare and medicine, plastic can be found in nearly every facet of the human experience.

But as we well know, plastic is a double-edged sword, with massive amounts of plastic waste not only piling up in landfills, but floating in the most remote depths of our oceans and water supplies. And despite our knowledge of plastic’s harmful effects on the environment, we’ve become so reliant on plastic that there seems to be no end in sight. In fact, plastic production is growing on a yearly basis–and posing a potentially mortal threat to us all.

However, a newly-discovered type of mushroom could not only play a crucial role in slashing plastic pollution, but could have myriad other uses in addressing the environmental crises the planet faces.

Discovered in 2012 by Yale University students, Pestalotiopsis microspora is a rare species of mushroom from the Amazon rainforest that’s capable of subsisting on a diet of pure plastic, or more accurately, the main ingredient in plastic–polyurethane–before converting the human-made ingredient into purely organic matter.

And not only can Pestalotiopsis microspora live off of our plastic waste, it can also live without oxygen–meaning that the rare breed of mushroom would make an ideal agent for landfill clean-up, literally from the bottom-up.

While the idea sounds fantastic, some scientists have expressed hope that the plastic-consuming fungi can form the basis of the community waste treatment centers of the future–replacing our current practice of dumping our trash into centralized, massive landfills with small, mushroom-centered community composting centers or even home recycling kits, according to Epoch Times.

And as it turns out, Pestalotiopsis microspora isn’t alone in the world of plastic-eating mushrooms–and some of its plastic-consuming kin are event perfectly safe for us humans to consume.

In a study led by Katharina Unger for Utrecht University in the Netherlands, oyster mushrooms and other types of mushrooms were placed in agar cups with plastic waste and held in a climate-controlled dome-shaped environment. After about a month, the roots of the mushroom consumed and transformed the plastic into an edible biomass–or food–that was completely free of any toxicity from the polyurethane.

Not only was the finished product completely free of plastic, but they also had an appealing taste, according to Unger, who described them as “sweet with the smell of anise or licorice.”

Yes, that’s right: for the very first time in history, plastic trash could be a part of our food chain–in a deliberate and surprisingly healthy way. Indeed, such a discovery–if refined–could be a part of a novel solution to food scarcity in a world brimming-over with plastic waste yet scarce on food for hundreds of millions of people.

Our research partner [Utrecht University] expects that the digestion will go much quicker once processes are fully researched and optimized,” Unger told Dezeen magazine, adding that her team “imagined it as being used with a community or small farm setting.”

The benefits of plastic-eating mushrooms seem limitless. At the State of the World’s Fungi 2018 event in Kew Gardens, London, fungi that process polyurethane were also found to be suitable as “mushroom bricks,” or a durable and sustainable building material that could be suitable for building homes.

The management and elimination of plastic waste is among the greatest challenges we face in saving our environment. But if the natural rate of decomposition can be reduced from 400 years to a mere few months, then these fungi could soon be taking over the world.

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Animals

Scientists Shocked After Discovering ‘Strange Creatures’ Nearly a Mile Under Antarctic Ice Shelf

Elias Marat

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The perplexing community of alien-like creatures wasn’t supposed to be there.

Roughly a mile beneath the icy surface of Antarctica in a remote region 160 miles from sunlight, scientists have accidentally discovered a perplexing set of bizarre creatures, perplexing the researchers who believed the area to be a wasteland wholly devoid of life.

Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey had drilled through 3,000 ft. of ice after melting 20 tons of snow to scoop up seafloor sediment before dropping a camera into the frigid ocean below. However, they soon realized that their tunnel had been dug right above a boulder at the bottom of the ocean, rendering it impossible to gather any sediment.

However, to the shock of the researchers, their camera was able to discover an ecosystem of life that left them confounded with what Wired described as “strange creatures” – two types of filter feeding sea sponges that had never been encountered, dwelling in the – 28.04°F (-2.2°C) water where researchers had believed that no life was possible.

The strange species dwelling in the pitch black waters are living over 200 miles from any known food source, but the creatures still appear to be prospering in spite of the treacherous conditions of the Antarctic sea floor.

The discovery of the strange sea sponges shows just how little we still know about one of the only unexplored regions of the world – and the forms of life that thrive there – where gigantic ice shelves that often rival the size of entire countries have prevented researchers from studying what lies below.

The team’s study laying out the jaw-dropping discovery was published Monday in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

“It’s not the most exciting-looking rock—if you don’t know where it is,” British Antarctic Survey biologist Dr. Huw Griffiths told Wired.

Indeed, on close inspection the rock wasn’t only home to the bizarre alien-like sponges – including some shaped like cylinders – but also a film of bacteria known as a microbial mat and a range of stalked organism. Their source of sustenance is what left the scientists befuddled.

Animals that live sessile (or stationary) lives typically rely on a stable supply of food known as “marine snow” – the detritus and remains, sometimes as small as particles, of decomposed sea creatures that sink to the depths of the ocean. Anyone with their own aquarium can imagine what this marine snow looks like.

However, while the source of food might not be apparent, the scientists are guessing that underwater currents are washing in miniscule bits of organic matter from ecosystems that could be as distant as 390 to 930 miles away.

This all still remains a matter of speculation until the next expedition can study this mysterious underwater community much closer. Yet the scientists are eager to find out what these bizarre creatures are and how they ended up in the region in such an inhospitable region in the first place.

“Are they all eating the same food source?” Griffiths asked. “Or are some of them kind of getting nutrients from each other? Or are there more mobile animals around somehow providing food for this community?”

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Environment

Breathtaking Video Shows Monstrous Avalanche Barrel Down Toward Snowmobilers

Elias Marat

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Gut-wrenching video has gone viral that shows a massive avalanche barreling toward snowmobilers in Utah on Saturday, but the entire group managed to narrowly survive the massive onslaught that nearly closed in on them.

The group had been riding through the Uinta Mountains before the avalanche struck, according to striking video of the aftermath posted to Instagram by snowmobiler Miles Penrose (@backcountrymiles).

“Today we were riding in the Uintas, the snow was great up high and it was finally feeling like we had some base,” Penrose wrote, adding that he had been riding in that part of the mountains since he was 8 years old and was highly familiar with the conditions of the region.

“My brother and I were playing on the side of a hill in the a tree area where [we] have ridden 30-40 times in years past,” he continued.

“As I finished recording my brother playing in the pow, the mountain shook,” Penrose added.

“My original thought was… earthquake. Then it [hit] me, avalanche,” he said.

The terrifying event was also recorded by their friend Nate, who was accompanying them during the ordeal.

As the snow was barreling down the mountain, a man in the video can be heard screaming “Avalanche!”

“Oh sh*t, that’s coming to us,” the terrified man also said.

After Nate can be seen making a mad dash to pull away on his sled to escape the avalanche, the camera suddenly goes dark.

According to Penrose, his safety gear failed to deploy because it had not been turned on. However, he was still swept off his feet by the snow by about 20 yards and was basically “swimming” in the deluge.

Penrose was buried up to his chest in the snow before he fortunately was able to dig himself out. He then rescued his brother, who was buried just up to the top of his head.

“[Then] came the radio chatter,” Penrose said. “Where is everyone at? Was everyone okay? We didn’t realize it but the avalanche had triggered even bigger on the other side of trees where we were.”

Three other party members also managed to survive the terrifying event.

 The avalanche was the second to strike in Utah on that day.

In Mill Creek Canyon, which lies halfway across the state from the Uinta Mountains, eight people from two separate were skiing back country before seven of them were struck by a massive avalanche.

Four of the skiers – two people from each group – were killed. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the skiers “were young Utahns who reveled in the state’s beauty, pursuing adventures from its ski slopes to its redrock country.”

CNN reports that the four deaths are the most recent in a series of recent deaths caused by avalanches across three states, with the latest deaths bringing the number of fatalities to nine.

Just last week, a man in Utah was killed after being caught in an avalanche near Park City Mountains Canyons Village, just a few miles from the Mill Creek avalanche.

Three other skiers, all local officials, were also killed in an avalanche in Colorado last Monday. Their bodies weren’t recovered until Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the body of a skier was recovered following an avalanche at the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

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Environment

Biden Expected to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline Permit on Day One

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President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly planning on the day of his inauguration to rescind a federal permit allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, a move environmentalists said would represent an immense victory for the planet attributable to years of tireless Indigenous-led opposition to the dirty-energy project.

CBC News reported Sunday that “the words ‘Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit’ appear on a list of executive actions supposedly scheduled for Day One of Biden’s presidency,” which begins with his swearing-in on Wednesday. The withdrawal of the Keystone XL permit is among several environment-related actions Biden plans to take via executive order during his first day in office, a list that includes rejoining the Paris climate accord.

“A huge victory for Lakota and Indigenous front liners and Water Protectors. None of this would have been possible without their sacrifices,” Nick Estes, a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and an assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, tweeted in response to Biden’s reported plan for Keystone XL, a sprawling $8 billion tar sands project that the Trump administration repeatedly sought to advance amid legal challenges and widespread grassroots resistance.

Kendall Mackey, Keep It in the Ground campaign manager for 350.org, said in a statement late Sunday that preventing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. would be a “momentous sign” that Biden “is listening, taking action, and making good on his promises to people and the planet.”

“This decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline on day one in office sets a precedent that all permitting decisions must pass a climate test and respect Indigenous rights,” said Mackey. “We expect the administration to make similar announcements on Dakota Access Pipeline and Line 3. We celebrate this great victory and the powerful movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

“By ensuring that Keystone XL is reversed,” Mackey continued, “Biden is standing on the side of tribal nations, farmers, ranchers, and many communities whose livelihoods would be wrecked by this dirty pipeline.”

News of Biden’s Inauguration Day plan was met with howls of protest from right-wing Canadian politicians such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who issued a statement Sunday threatening legal action if Biden follows through on yanking the permit for Keystone XL, owned by Canada-based company TC Energy. Last March, as Common Dreams reported, the government of Alberta committed around $1.1 billion USD to the pipeline project.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing,” Kenney tweeted, a response that was immediately panned by climate activists.

In a last-ditch effort to rescue its long-delayed Keystone XL project, TC Energy is reportedly “committing to spend $1.7 billion on solar, wind, and battery power to operate the partially completed 2,000-mile pipeline system between Alberta, in western Canada, and Texas,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The attempt to brand Keystone XL as an environmentally friendly and sustainable energy project was swiftly ridiculed, with one journalist accusing TC Energy of a “desperate” effort to put “lipstick on its pig.”

Dallas Goldtooth, Keep It in the Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in response to Biden’s plan to rescind the pipeline permit that “our communities have been fighting KXL for over a decade, tooth and nail, in the dirt and in the courts.”

“We formed an immensely powerful, unlikely alliance of voices and we never gave up,” said Goldtooth. “I will wait for the ink to dry before I fully celebrate, but s*** this feels good.”

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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