by Karisa Boyce
The benefits of mycoremediation to help further degrade land based ocean and beach plastic are a key role in beach cleanups by Ocean Blue Project. Lowering plastic fragments and micro fragments from being placed in landfills is our main goal with researching fungi as our main strategy during the National Beach Cleanup Initiative cleanups on the West Coast. Plastic do not degrade easy, and end up hanging around in landfills for many years and without the sun beating down on plastic it almost never degrades. Plastic floating in our ocean blocks sun light affecting plant life and fish that are consuming plastic, which means less oxygen for everyone.
Using natural microbial communities to help degrade plastic is a key factor and plays a very important role to help speed up the breakdown Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). Fungi uses a mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid, an enzymatically key factor to degrade PET. We once thought only a few fungal species were thought to have the proteins needed. However, today it is more about what fungal species work faster and we are not limited to what fungal species help degrade plastic.
Ocean Blue will be collecting over 50 thousands pounds of plastic from beaches in Washington, Oregon, and California. We will recycle all that we can but have found difficulties finding interest from manufactures and companies that could potentiallyl use beach plastic we are collecting to create new products. Last year, we were part of a pilot project with Terra Cycle/Proctor and Gamble that was using our beach plastic to make a shampoo bottle.
The plastic collected was shipped to New Jersey, then shipped to France where the 25% of the rigid beach plastic was used to make this shampoo bottle by P&G. Our nonprofit feels using plastic does help lower the demand of virgin plastic but the travel process was highly unsustainable and shipping plastic removed from the Ocean should not be traveling back across our sea.
Our team has reached out to over 150 companies in Oregon and other parts of the United States. Our goal is to find a company interested in using beach plastic to make a Kayak but it doesn't seem that anyone is genuinely interested, leaving our beach cleanup team forced to toss this ocean beach plastic into landfills and still not solving the plastic pollution problem or the demand of new products being produced from virgin plastic deriving from crude oil.
Researchers of Ocean Blue will use fungi as a strategy to consume the plastic and turn it back into clean dirt that can be used for gardens or our lawns throughout communities. Ocean Blue has been working with fungi since 2014. News Link:
We will set up a research site on the Oregon coast where we can drop off our collected beach plastic much closer to the original collection sites to help facilitate a practical implementation of beach plastic that will keep this plastic out of landfills.
Myceilum is able to degrade plastic waste that would otherwise persist in the environment for years all the while affecting land base animals like bird species. Mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus, consists of a network of fine white filaments called (hyphae). The Hyphae is able to secrete enzymes which break down the bonds between individual molecules and use its mycelia to break them apart and back into a nontoxic soil.
Another option that many people have brought to our attention is to use Lowly aka wax worms. From an ethical standpoint, we know that plastic pollution impacts the internal organs of bird species, so we are not willing to exploit worms in order to find a solution to this human generated mess. The fungi will actually use the plastic without being harmed, which is why it is the best solution at hand.
Our main goal as researchers is to figure out a plan of action that works best to make this fungi project work easily by figuring out the best temperature and Ph balance of its surroundings, as well as the type of culture medium in place, in terms of an impact on performance. Another main objective is figuring out what conditions would be ideal to help facilitate a practical implementation. The research will be applied this June in Newport, Oregon and we will use 6 strains of fungi that will be monitored side by side to find the most efficient working fungus to thrive on the surface of plastics, and that will be the most beneficial in providing a practical solution.
Millions of Tons of Plastic Floating in our