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Watch: Scientists discover new plastic-eating bacteria and tested it to see how fast it would break it down

Business Insider SA
  • Scientists have found tiny microbes that are able to break down plastic waste found in the ocean.
  • The bacteria has been named Ideonella Sakaiensis.
  • A separate study tested the bacteria on two types of plastic - polyethylene and polystyrene.
  • After 5 months polyethylene had a weight reduction of 7%, while the polystyrene had a weight reduction of 11%.

According to a study published in Science Magazine, scientists have found tiny microbes that are able to break down plastic waste found in the ocean.

The bacteria has been named Ideonella Sakaiensis.

In a separate study, researchers from the Technical University of Crete experimented with the bacteria. They collected samples of weathered plastic such as polyethylene and polystyrene debris from two different beaches in Greece.

The researchers immersed both types of plastic in saltwater from the sea. One batch had naturally-occurring ocean microbes added to the water, while the other had bacteria enhanced with carbon-eating microbe strains.

The plastic-consuming microbes were used to speed up the chemical reactions normally required to break down plastic.

After 5 months, the scientists weighed the plastic debris and found that the polyethylene had a weight reduction of 7%, while the polystyrene had a weight reduction of 11%.

According to the study, the microbes could offer an attempt at solving the problem of plastic pollution. However, more research would be needed to see how effective the bacteria would be on a larger scale.


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