Study: UV Light, Fungus Help Break Down BPA-containing Plastic

Pretreating polycarbonate plastic, which contains bisphenol A (BPA), may be the key to disposing of the waste in an eco-friendly way, according to Mukesh Doble and Rishul Artham, whose research appears in the American Chemical Society's Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.

The article, “Biodegradation of Physiochemically Treated Polycarbonate by Fungi” is based on research done through the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, India.

Doble and 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.

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.

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