With help from a little ultraviolet light, fungi can break down worrisome plastics. Ordinary fungi can safely break down polycarbonate plastic — an omnipresent material that contains the worry-inducing chemical bisphenol A, or BPA.
BPA, which has been linked to a growing number of reproductive, developmental and other health issues, appears in a huge variety of plastic products, including CDs, water bottles and toys. Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of polycarbonate plastic is produced each year.
In experiments, three types of fungi were able to break down about 5 percent of the plastic in their lab dishes over the course a year, as long as the plastic was first zapped with ultraviolet light.