Background and Objectives: Colonization of microorganisms on pollutants is the first indication of the potential
ability of microbes to utilize plastic pollutants as a carbon source by sequential biodegradation into usable form
for sustenance. The Philippines is considered the third highest country contributing to global mismanaged
plastic waste. To locally manage and find a natural and innovative solution to this worldwide concern, this study
aimed to evaluate the capacity of Xylaria sp. SDM (sterile dark mycelia) wild type, which was previously reported
to colonize polyethylene plastic and mutant strains to colonize polystyrene, a plastic pollutant widely produced
in the world. Assessment of the ability of local Xylaria sp. strains to grow, penetrate, and damage the surface and
inner structures of polystyrene was investigated using scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
Methods: Xylaria sp. strains were cultured in a pH 5.0 mineral medium with 0.5% glucose as carbon source and
polystyrene as a co-carbon source, and stored at 25⁰C for 50 days. At the end of the incubation period, due to
irremovable fungal strains on the surface of the polystyrene strips, samples of polystyrene from each strain were
subjected to SEM.
Results: On the 20th day of incubation, the presence of mucilaginous sheaths and fungal growth was observed
on the surface of treated polystyrene strips. At the end of the 50-day incubation period, scanning electron
microscopy (SEM) confirmed fungal growth and colonization, through the presence of mycelial mats and
hyphae, of the wild type and mutant strains on the surface and inner structures of polystyrene except the
control. Moreover, physical surface damage in the form of holes, cracks, and crevices on polystyrene
demonstrated the active burrowing action of Xylaria sp. strains further supporting the potential of this fungus to
damage polystyrene plastic.
Conclusion: Whereas fungal growth on a polymer surface is necessary but not sufficient to conclude the process
of carbon assimilation as the final biodegradation step, the initial colonization of Xylaria sp. strains on
polystyrene supports its ability to establish itself and physically damage the pollutant. Hence, this study
extended the existing knowledge on the colonizing ability of Xylaria sp. on plastic making it a potential candidate
organism to biodegrade plastic waste, which is one of the topmost environmental waste hazards in the world