Fungal Upcycling of Waste Plastic Film

Close up of mushrooms on plastic tray packed in transparent cling film
Project Type
March 2023
A research team is investigating the potential of fungal degradation to break down plastic into biologically tractable carbon and will evaluate the impact of this technology at scale.

Plastic pollution is a growing environmental challenge since many forms of plastic exhibit minimal degradation in the environment. However, recent research has identified fungal degradation of plastics as a potential route for breaking plastics down into biologically tractable carbon. This proposal is focused on developing preliminary data on the degradation of pretreated and untreated low- and high-density polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Plastic substrates will be inoculated with different fungal strains and cocktails of fungal strains to identify and select for rapid conversion of plastic into biomass. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the mechanism of degradation and the potential creation of microplastics. Life cycle analysis (LCA) and technoeconomic analysis (TEA) will be used to evaluate the impact of this technology at scale. This seed grant will develop an interdisciplinary team across two commonwealth campuses and will be used to better understand the potential to develop fungal biorefineries to process waste plastic. 


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