We use polyurethane to make just about everything -- garden hoses, furniture, the entirety of my local 99-cent store. It's easy to produce, durable, and dirt cheap. What it isn't is recyclable -- there isn't a single natural process that breaks it down. That is until a newly-discovered Amazonian fungus takes a bite.
Pestalotiopsis microspora (not shown) is a resident of the Ecuadorian rainforest and was discovered by a group of student researchers led by molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel as part of Yale's annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory. It's the first fungus species to be able to survive exclusively on polyurethane and, more importantly, able to do so in anaerobic conditions -- the same conditions found in the bottom of landfills. This makes the fungus a prime candidate for bioremediation projects that could finally provide an alternative to just burying the plastic and hoping for the best. [Fastcoexist]
Image via manzrussali / Shutterstock