June 20, 2014
Researchers have discovered the presence of plastic eating microbes in the waters around Australia that could help reduce harmful marine waste. The organisms also cause tiny pieces of plastic to sink to the seafloor.
Staff at the University of Western Australia analyzed more than 1,000 images of material along Australia's coast. Their study seemed to show the microbes breaking down plastic waste, according to a paper published in the scientific journal PLoS
“Plastic biodegradation seems to happen at sea,” said oceanographer Julia Reisser, who worked on the research. “I am excited about this because the ‘plastic-eating’ microbes could provide solutions for better waste disposal practices on land.
“If you use terrestrial microbes, you need fresh water to grow them and the process can be very expensive,” Reisser added. “But if you find marine microbes, they are growing in saltwater and that might be a cheaper way to reduce landfills.”