The Mission of Plastic Decomposition: Fungi Edition

Team: 59

School: New Mexico Tech Upward Bound Math & Science

Area of Science: Botany and Environmental Sciences

Interim: Interim Report

Team Number: 059
School Name: New Mexico Tech Upward Bound Math and Science
Area of Science: Botany and Environmental Sciences
Project Title: The Mission of Plastic Decomposition: Fungi Edition

Problem Definition:
There is around 8.3 billion tons of plastic in the world with around 18 million tons of polyester polyurethane produced each year, while the recycling processes in effect are only recycling 500 thousand tons in a 36:1 ratio. There must be more ways to recycle the amount of polystyrene waste collected each year and we must start finding ways to complete etely eradicate the the plastic waste product otherwise the waste will start to overflow and overload our planet.

Problem Solution:
We will implement the use of pestalotiopsis microspora, a fungi that would break down the waste material, polyester polyurethane, and absorb it into itself during the fertilization process, thus making it organic material which could be safely consumed. In this process, the plastic polyurethane would actually be erased into organic material, rather than just recycled into more plastic material, which is very beneficial since plastic is being produced rapidly and is not being recycled as efficiently. We plan to use a liely python-based code. There will be a map of the globe, with sprites representing plastic and pestalotiopsis microspora, to show the amount of plastic and fungus concentrated in the world, and how both of these factors change. The plastic sprites will be 1 million tons of plastic each, and the fungus sprites are one fungus-producing farm each.

Progress to Date: Attempts at a exponential growth/decay model using NetLogo and python. We first looked at a story from Smithsonian, and found that it takes several months for a small pod to dissolve a small handful of plastic, but a speedier rate is being worked upon. The fungus itself would cost around $75 for a 10 ml culture. Based on the example setup, we found a UV bulb for $100. In order to obtain the agar needed for pods, we found that it could cost $12 for 4 ounces. The environment that Pestalotiopsis Microspora grows at is a temperature of 24 degrees celsius to 26 degrees celsius.

Expected Results:
We hope to determine the point at which the growth of fungal farms will start to effectively reduce the amount of plastic in landfills while still measuring current plastic waste intake. We want to determine how many fungal farms, water and plastic needed alongside it, will be needed to be grown to achieve such goal. And lastly we hope to incorporate cost, time, space, and availability to resources to see the true effectiveness of the project in a real world environment.

Team Members:
Seth Griffin -
Jeremy Lawrence -
Danny Luong -
Torrey Luong -

Sponsoring Teachers:
Karen Glennon -
Kurtis Griess -

Project Mentors:
Sharee Lunsford -
Patty Meyer -

Sources Used:
Amal Hassan Aly. Abdessamed Debbab. Peter Proksch. “Fungal endophytes: unique
plant inhabitants with great promises.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, vol. 90 no. 6, 2011, Accessed 10 November 2018.
Blakemore Erin. Chow Down on a Plastic-Eating Fungus. Smithsonian Institute, 16 Feb.
2016, chow-down- plastic-eating- fungus-180958127/. Accessed 21 Sept. 2018
Donna Jaramillo - - (505-803-0365)
Geoff Danielson -
“Login.” ATCC: The Global Bioresource Center,

Team Members:

  Danny luong
  Seth Griffin
  Torrey Luong
  Jeremy Lawrence

Sponsoring Teacher: Kurtis Griess

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