Nature Finds a Way

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Although the amount of plastic polluting our seas is increasing every day, there is hope. In recent article, Fungus breaks down ocean plastic, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research revealed the discovery of a fungus living in the ocean, Parengyodontium album. This organism can degrade polyethylene, the most common type of plastic found in marine environments. While there are bacteria that possess this similar trait, this ability is rare among fungi, shared only by four other species. 

Parengyodontium album breaks down polyethylene at a rate of approximately 0.05% per day, converting a significant portion into carbon dioxide, and releasing an amount similar to normal human respiration. However, for effective function, Parengyodontium album requires plastics that have been exposed to sunlight, posing a challenge when the material sinks to deeper levels of the ocean before receiving the necessary UV exposure. There is the expectation that there are other fungi existing in deeper ocean layers that can break down complex materials made of carbon, yet these organisms have not yet been identified. 

Although the discovery of Parengyodontium album can contribute to the breakdown of plastic, the fungi is no match in comparison to human plastic production, which escalates annually. 

At Itaconix, we work for nature with nature and have developed plant-based materials that contribute to more powerful, cost effective, sustainable, and safer consumer products. While we do not address the plastics problem directly, our technology platform helps to rebalance the carbon cycle by replacing ingredients made with fossil-based carbon with plant-based ones. We want to benefit future generations with our ingredients by working with brand managers and product formulators to create consumer products that benefit the world by how they are produced, transported, used and returned to the environment.