current affairs environment science waste

Canadian teenager identifies plastic-eating bacteria

There has been a growing movement in the UK recently to ban or at least to tax plastic bags. But what about those that are already out there, taking up space in landfill or floating about in the Pacific Ocean?

A Canadian high school student may have worked out a solution. For his entry in a science fair (which he won, needless to say), Daniel Burd successfully identified the strain of bacteria that breaks down plastic bags. A polythene bag will degrade over 1000 years ‘in the wild’, but Burd reckons it could take as little as three months, under the right conditions of warmth, moisture, and bacterial fermentation. We may be some way from an industrial scale plastic-bag processing plant, but this breakthrough does make it possible.

You can read more about the specifics here, with thanks to Inhabitat.

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  1. Looks really interesting!!

    BUT are those microbes really safe & harmless?
    Also, the article says the plastic bags didn’t fully biodegrade at the time of writing yet… DO they fully biodegrade?

    what about additives to the bags, such as colors (possibly heavy metals) etc?

    & how could this process be used for landfills where the trash is ‘mixed together’?
    /or incinerators…?/

    Would really love to read more about this!

  2. Yes, it’s so early on in the research it’ll probably be years before we get answers to those kinds of questions! I hope this isn’t the last we hear about it.

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