Plastics Pollution-are microbes the answer?

Nothing blights a seaside walk like plastic rubbish does. Bags and bottles roll along the shore like some multicoloured spindrift from hell. Discarded nets and fishing gear trip humans and dogs alike. We’re the lucky ones; out at sea they condemn thousands of marine creatures to an agonising death daily. We avert our eyes and turn inland. To find the hedges and fields littered with the same-the fallen leaves of a dying economic system. And everywhere on sea, land, in the mountains, in the air, these strange new  solids are piling up into continents of waste and pollution. [1] And that’s before you start thinking about the sorts of people that dropped them.

Well, there’s a nice gloomy start to today’s blog, gentle readers. But LSS is nothing if not  hopeful. So we’ll shine not one but two rays of hope into your lives today. And both of them  ways of overcoming plastics pollution. Using our microbe friends to eat it, for the record.

The first comes from Helena Horton of the Guardian. [2] The ingenious Dr Rüthi and his colleagues in Switzerland have been investigating all sorts of bacteria and fungi which might actually digest plastics at room temperature. This, gentle readers, is key:for any discovery must function out there, in the real world, if it’s to be any good. So far the results are mixed. Good for some plastics like polyurethanes, less good for those stubborn ol’ polyethylenes. But a start nonetheless, and much to be welcomed.

By coincidence our regular correspondent Ms Gaynor Lynch has contacted us on this very selfsame day with much the same idea. Via Ocean Blue Project she has a whole series of initiatives on how mushrooms might yet digest our way out of this insidious mess. There’s a good one from  ABC Australia on how fungi of the genus Aspergillus seem to be able to eat polypropylene [3] [4] [5] And we also share a link to how  the resourceful Dr Ken Cullings of NASA is hoping to develop new biological initiatives to deal with the problem in our seas.

Our thoughts? Funny how the educated, thinking section of the population is having to clear up the mess left by those who obey “the invisible dictates of the market” Perhaps some of those very well funded “free enterprise” think tanks might like to take note.

[1] Plastic pollution | Greenpeace UK

[2] Microbes discovered that can digest plastics at low temperatures | Microbiology | The Guardian

[3] Plastic-eating backyard fungi discovery boosts hopes for a solution to the recycling crisis – ABC News

[4] Oyster mushrooms expected to break down toxins and microplastics in cigarette butts in Australian trial | Waste | The Guardian

[5] The fungus and bacteria tackling plastic waste – BBC News

[6] Fungi Cure for Clean Water Research • Environmental Nonprofit Organization (

#plastic pollution #bacteria #fungi #environmental degradation

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