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Scientists at the University of Sydney discovered through experiments that they could use two types of mold commonly found in plants and soil – Aspergillus terreus and Engyodontium album — to break down stubborn plastic, according to findings published in the science journal npj Materials Degradation.

It took 90 days for the fungi to degrade 27 per cent of the plastic tested, and about 140 days to completely break it down, after the samples were exposed to ultraviolet rays or heat.

"It's the highest degradation rate reported in the literature that we know in the world," Ali Abbas, a chemical engineering professor at the university.

Professor Abbas said he was "very confident" the technology could be scaled up to process thousands of tonnes of plastic a year, because the same techniques were already being used in different fields.