In a strange and sobering twist, plastic pollution is becoming so prevalent on earth that tiny microbes are evolving to be able to consume it.
It sounds like a glimpse of hope, where microbes might be the answer to all of the waste in the oceans, but in reality, the scale of the problem is far too big for microscopic microbes to tackle alone.
Researchers at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have discovered the evolution of the microbes, which are found in greater concentration in areas with more pollution.
It seems as though the microbes are able to make a dent in micro plastics, and scientists will study these microbes, to see if they could potentially be engineered to help tackle the problem.
“We found multiple lines of evidence supporting the fact that the global microbiome’s plastic-degrading potential correlates strongly with measurements of environmental plastic pollution — a significant demonstration of how the environment is responding to the pressures we are placing on it”
Every year around 8 million tonnes of plastic escapes into the world’s oceans.
“The next step would be to test the most promising enzyme candidates in the lab to closely investigate their properties and the rate of plastic degradation they can achieve. From there you could engineer microbial communities with targeted degrading functions for specific polymer types,” explains Aleksej Zelezniak.