Two scientists of Indian origin have found that the source of a huge environmental headache because of its bisphenol A (BPA) content, may actually be the key to disposing of waste in an eco-friendly way.
Mukesh Doble and Trishul Artham note that manufacturers produce about 2.7 million tons of plastic containing BPA each year.
Polycarbonate is an extremely recalcitrant plastic, used in everything from screwdriver handles to eyeglass lenses, DVDs, and CDs.
Some studies have suggested that the BPA may have a range of adverse health effects, sparking the search for an environmentally safe way of disposing of waste plastic to avoid release of BPA.
The scientists pretreated polycarbonate with ultraviolet light and heat and exposed it to three kinds of fungi, including the fabled white-rot fungus, used commercially for environmental remediation of the toughest pollutants.
The scientists found that fungi grew better on pretreated plastic, using its BPA and other ingredients as a source of energy and breaking down the plastic.
After 12 months, there was almost no decomposition of the untreated plastic, compared to substantial decomposition of the pretreated plastic, with no release of BPA.