A Fungus Could Be One Key to Solving Our Plastic Waste Crisis

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iStock

An unusual strain of fungus found last year in a Pakistani garbage dump could one day provide a solution to our plastic waste woes. As Dezeen reports, the Aspergillus tubingensis fungus has the ability to break down the chemical bonds between plastic molecules in a matter of weeks rather than years.

The findings were presented in a 92-page State of the World’s Fungi report, published by London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew [PDF]. The report cites recent studies showing that this particular fungus can help aid the disintegration of polyester polyurethane (PU)—a substance commonly used in refrigerator insulation, synthetic leather, and many other household products. The study, by Chinese and Pakistani researchers, revealed that A. tubingensis broke down the plastic in just two months.

Once the fungus attaches to a piece of plastic, it secretes enzymes that help the material degrade faster. There’s even a word for this fungi-based method of removing waste from the environment: mycoremediation. Fungi can also “feed” on radioactive waste, oil spills, and other toxic chemicals like nerve gas, Sky News reports. Mushrooms have even been used to create an eco-friendly faux leather. According to experts, 93 percent of fungal species are still unknown to science, so there may be other environmental uses for mushrooms that have yet to be discovered.

Of course, the fungi solution is only a stop-gap measure, as many experts have pointed out that plastic production is the real source of the problem. By some estimates, the amount of plastic that’s been created by humans is equivalent to 25,000 Empire State Buildings or 80 million blue whales. Only 9 percent of that waste has been recycled.

[h/t Dezeen]

5 Clever Ways to Reuse Prescription Bottles

Zadas_Photography/iStock via Getty Images
Zadas_Photography/iStock via Getty Images

Old prescription bottles have a way of accumulating in every drawer and cabinet of a home. During your next cleaning spree, don’t be so quick to toss them in the recycling bin (or the trash can). Those perfectly-good containers have many potential uses beyond their original purpose. From thrifty organizers to gardening projects, here are some clever ways to upcycle empty pill bottles.

1. Organize jewelry.

Tossing your jewelry loose into a box is a recipe for tangled chains and missing valuables. Keep things neat and organized by repurposing your old prescription bottles. If you have enough of them at home, you can designate separate bottles for each type of jewelry you need to store. Now, instead of spending 10 minutes looking for the mate to your favorite earring, you’ll know exactly where you left it.

2. Make travel-size toiletry bottles.

Buying travel-size toiletries is a hassle—and throwing away your full-sized bottles at airport security when you inevitably forget to buy the smaller ones is even more frustrating. Reusing old pill bottles saves you a trip to the drug store. When packing, just squeeze a dollop of your shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, and whatever other liquid products you need into separate containers. You can customize the amount you need for the length of your trip, and then wash and save the bottles when you get home. But the best part is that you won’t need to wait until you get off the plane to moisturize.

3. Sort coins.

You can’t spend coins when they’re loose in your drawers and the pockets of your winter coat. Old prescription bottles are the perfect size for organizing spare change. Keep a few empty bottles out at home so you can empty your purse and pockets after you walk in the door. You can even use different bottles to separate coins by value, which will make your life easier if you ever get around to rolling those coins and taking them to the bank.

4. Grow seedlings.

An old pill bottle makes a great first home for any plants you’re trying to grow from seeds. Just stuff damp cotton balls into the bottom of the canister, add the seeds, and cover them with a layer of soil. You can even attach a magnet to the side of the bottle to make a decorative mini-planter for your fridge. Once the seedling is big enough, transfer it to a larger home and find new seeds for your upcycled plant container.

5. Store spices.

Do you need matching containers for your dried herbs and spices? Before spending extra money, see if you have any prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet at home. The containers fit snugly onto a spice rack and are just wide enough for you to scoop a tablespoon past the opening. Plus, the same amber plastic designed to protect medications from harsh light is just as effective at protecting spices.

Letting Your Car Warm Up in New Jersey Could Get You a $1000 Fine

Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images
Artfoliophoto/iStock via Getty Images

New Jersey residents who like to let their cars idle for an extended period of time before hitting the road might want to brush up on state law. If a police officer has the inclination, he or she could write a ticket for up to $1000. The crime? Excessively warming up a motor vehicle's engine.

According to News 12, the law stipulates that automobile owners are permitted to let their cars warm up for 15 minutes, but only if the vehicle has been parked for more than three hours and the temperature is less than 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Cars that were running less than three hours prior only get three minutes. A first offense can result in a $250 fine; a second, $500; and a third, $1000. The law even applies if the car is parked in a private driveway.

And yes, the state is serious. But why be so harsh on idlers? It's actually for a good reason. According to a state fact sheet [PDF] on the practice, excessive idling of a gas or diesel engine releases contaminants into the air, with fine particle pollution responsible for health issues. Since the offense is difficult for law enforcement to actually witness first-hand, the state encourages citizens to report violations. The state makes exceptions for refrigerated trucks, emergency vehicles, and vehicles stopped in traffic.

The state has also debunked a commonly-held myth that cars need to be “warmed up” in order to avoid engine damage. Electronically-controlled vehicles need just 30 seconds or so, with drivers cautioned to avoid rapid acceleration or high speeds for the first four miles during cold weather. The practice of warming up was more applicable to older model cars that used carburetors that needed to get air and fuel into the engine. Today’s cars use sensors to monitor temperature and make the correct adjustments. Idling is now just a waste of fuel, though the practice persists—people like warm cars.

While the attempt to freshen the air may be admirable, New Jersey residents are probably correct in thinking the law may be rarely enforced. From 2011 to 2016, only a few hundred summonses for violating the idling law have been written annually. In 2015, 276 were issued, with 148 of them dismissed.

[h/t News 12]

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