What’s Going On Here?
Scientists have recently discovered a bacterium that not only feeds off toxic unrecyclable plastic, but uses it as food to fuel the process!
What Does This Mean?
The bacterium ‘Pseudomonas sp. TDA1’ was discovered at a waste dump site where it was found to be breaking down polyurethane, a very common yet difficult to recycle plastic used in the production of goods such as sports shoes, nappies and kitchen sponges. Polyurethane is usually highly toxic and carcinogenic when it decomposes, therefore killing any bacteria present – yet this new strain is seemingly resistant and can biodegrade the toxic plastic!
“These findings represent an important step in being able to reuse hard-to-recycle polyurethane products,” said Hermann Heipieper, who is a co-author of the study.
Why Should We Care?
We were all shocked when our pal David (Attenborough) laid out the truth about the global plastic crisis. But really it should come as no surprise – since the 1950s, humans are thought to have produced 8 billion tonnes of plastic, and in 2015 polyurethane accounted for 3.5 million tonnes of plastic generated by Europe in 2015.
The promising discovery of the bacterium could potentially help to solve one of our greatest environmental challenges to date. However, before a solution can be rolled out commercially, scientists need to gather significantly more knowledge and evidence of the biological workings.
We know at present it’s a difficult time to reduce your plastic consumption, but big industry is looking to renege on plastic bag bans.
- If you can, check out Greenpeace’s 9 simple ways to reduce your personal plastic use at home.
- Check out TerraCycle and their new re-usable initiative Loop