OREANDA-NEWS  Scientists at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Marine Research and other scientific institutions have discovered a fungus capable of decomposing plastic in the ocean. This is reported in an article published in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

The fungus Parengyodontium album, found on plastic debris in the ocean, has demonstrated the ability to decompose polyethylene under pretreatment with ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Researchers conducted a search for plastic-decomposing microorganisms in plastic pollution hotspots in the North Pacific Ocean. A marine fungus was isolated from the collected plastic debris, which was grown in the laboratory on special plastics containing labeled carbon isotopes 13 C.

The results showed that Parengyodontium album decomposes polyethylene at a rate of about 0.05 percent per day. Most of the polyethylene is converted to carbon dioxide, but the amount of greenhouse gas released is negligible. However, due to the need for UV radiation, the fungus can decompose only the plastic that is located near the surface of the sea.

The authors believe that there are as yet undiscovered species of microorganisms that are capable of decomposing plastic in deeper layers of the ocean.