Pilot study investigating the potential of filamentous fungi for textile bioremediation

Harper, Rachel (2023) Pilot study investigating the potential of filamentous fungi for textile bioremediation. (MSc(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


Synthetic petroleum-derived textiles shed microfibres that contribute to microplastic pollution and tonnes of textiles are disposed of in landfills every year. There is a need for sustainable methods to safely dispose of textile waste, and bioremediation may be the key. This is a pilot study to assess whether wood decay fungi show any ability to bioremediate mixed-fibre textiles, under controlled conditions that may then be scaled up for industry use. Microcosms were established with two wood decay fungi species, Hypholoma fasciculare and Serpula himantioides, grown on mixed-fibre semi-synthetic fabric cut from pre-washed garments. Three types of fabric were used, each with a cotton/bamboo viscose base, but with varying percentages of elastane. Microcosms were then incubated at 25 °C, and data sets (light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, dye loss and volatile production via GCMS) were collected at 3, 5 and 8 months. This is a new field of study and as such new protocols are required to establish the nature of the fungal interaction and potential degradation of the textiles. The samples showed significant loss of dye from the fabric, as determined by paired two-tailed t-tests (p-values<0.05 for all fabric types with Hypholoma fasciculare), accompanied by changes in volatile production over time. Scanning electron microscopy showed damage to textile fibres and the increasing presence of crystal metabolites. This is the first study of its kind to have recorded bioremediation of dye directly from fabric using filamentous fungi. Overall, initial results look promising and core methods have been established that can be used for comparison with other studies.

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