Plastic pollution is out of control. More than once a year 8 million tons While some of the synthetic polymers enter the ocean, some sinks to the groundreturns this coastor collects in middle of nowhereand a significant part Calculation is not that easy..
All this lost plastic is a secret, but some researchers suspect that hungry microbes are partly responsible.
Experiments in the lab have now shown that there is a species of marine bacteria known as marine bacteria. Rhodococcus rubercan slowly break down and digest the plastic made polyethylene (PE).
Mainly used in packaging, PE is the most produced plastic in the world and it is not clear whether it is. R. ruber While gnawing this waste in the wild, new research confirms it can at least do that.
Previous studies we found strains R. ruber floats in dense cellular films on marine plastic. Moreover, the first research in 2006 suggested plastic at the bottom R. ruber was deteriorating faster than usual.
The new study confirms that this is the case.
“This is the first time we have proven that bacteria actually digest plastic into CO2 and other molecules.” says Microbial ecologist Maaike Goudriaan of the Royal Netherlands Naval Research Institute (NIOZ).
To mimic the natural ways that plastic breaks down on the ocean surface, Goudriaan and colleagues exposed plastic samples to UV light and placed them in artificial seawater.
“Treatment with UV light was necessary because we already know that sunlight partially breaks the plastic down into bite-sized pieces for bacteria.” explains goudrian
Next, the team introduced a type of strain R. ruber to the stage
By measuring levels of an isotope of carbon released from the decomposing plastic, called carbon-13, the authors estimated that the polymers in their experiments degrade at a rate of about 1.2 percent per year.
The team isn’t sure how much the UV lamp degrades the plastic compared to the activity of the microbes, but bacteria clearly played a role. After the experiment, the bacterial samples showed fatty acid membranes enriched with carbon-13.
Plastic degradation rate defined in the current study very slow To completely solve the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, but it shows where some of our planet’s lost plastic may have gone.
“Our data suggest that sunlight may have significantly degraded all the floating plastic that has been poured into the oceans since the 1950s.” says microbiologist Annalisa Delre.
Microbes may then have come in and digested some of the Sun’s remnants.
Since 2013, researchers have warned that microbes likely grew on patches of plastic in the ocean, forming a synthetic ecosystem known as the ‘plastisphere’.
Even some of these microbial communities adapts Eating different types of plastic.
Previous studies have identified specific bacteria and fungi, Overland and at seaIt looks like it’s eating plastic. But while this information may help us better recycle our waste Before it ends up in the wild, its other uses are controversial.
Some scientists have suggested that we release plastic-eating equivalents to pollution hotspots, for example Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Others I’m not so sure this is a good idea. Engineered enzymes and bacterium Breaking down plastic may sound like a great way to eliminate our waste, but some experts are concerned about undesirable side effects to natural ecosystems and food webs.
After all, breaking up plastic isn’t necessarily a good thing. Microplastics are much more difficult to clean than larger pieces, and these tiny residues can seep into food webs. For example, filter feeders can accidentally catch small pieces of plastic before the germs.
Inside study Every single seafood sample tested in an Australian market in 2020 contained microplastics.
What this does to human or animal health completely unknown.
“It’s much better than cleaning, it’s taking precautions” discusses goudrian
“And only we humans can do that.”
Study published Marine Pollution Bulletin.
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