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Microbes breaking down plastic discovered

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31.05.2019

Plastic constitutes about 70% of all litter present in the oceans, due to which countless aquatic species are exposed to extinction.However, a small spark of hope has appeared: scientists discovered that marine microbes eat plastic which leads to its degradation.

In order to perform the research, scientists collected weathered plastic from two different beaches in Chania (Greece).The pieces collected were constituted by polyethylene (the most popular plastic that may be found e.g. in shopping bags and hair shampoo bottles) or polystyrene (a hard type of plastic that composes food or electronic packages).

The team immersed the pieces of plastic collected in salt water having natural ocean microbes present in it along with modified microbes that had been boosted with strains that break down carbon in plastics.Then, scientists have analysed the changes affecting the material throughout the preceding 5 months.

Both types of plastics have lost considerable amounts of their mass after having been exposed to natural and modified microbes, said researchers in the April edition of the Journal of Hazardous Materials.The microbes changed the chemical makeup of the material, making it lose 7% (in the case of polyethylene) and 11% (in the case of polystyrene) of their relevant weights.The discoveries may result in a new strategy that could further help combat ocean pollution.

Source: Sciencemag

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