Today’s Solutions: March 25, 2023

Nowadays, green-minded scientists and innovators are fighting an ongoing battle against the global plastic pollution problem, looking for new ways to reduce the unsurmountable build-up of waste that ends up in landfills or destroying ecosystems.

One of the most compelling recent discoveries comes from researchers in Germany, who have found a plastic-eating bacteria that may help us reduce plastic waste in the decades to come. The bacterium, which was found at a waste site where plastic had been dumped, not only breaks plastic down but uses it as food to power the process.

And what’s particularly interesting is that the bug is the first that is known to attack polyurethane — a type of plastic that is widely used to produce items such as sports shoes, nappies, kitchen sponges and as foam insulation, but is mostly sent to landfills because it is too tough to recycle. When broken down it can release toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that would kill most bacteria, but the newly discovered strain is able to survive.

While much work still remains to be done before the bacteria can be used to treat large amounts of plastic waste, its discovery represents an important step forward towards a better understanding of how nature can help us find exciting and viable solutions to this environmental challenge.

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