Isn’t it nice when reality follows a TOG discussion on plastic bioremediation? A high school student in Canada may have isolated microbes that degrade plastic bags. As far as I can tell from the not-so-coherent news article, Daniel Burd created a bacteria-friendly environment (warm, wet, and nutritious) and seeded it with ground-up plastic bags. He then isolated plastic-eating strains and cultured them together with plastic. The most successful strain reduced the plastic’s mass by 32%.
Of course (assuming Burd’s results are reproducible), there is a ways to go before we can have giant vats of plastic-munching bacteria. Bacteria that can easily be grown in small, liter-sized cultures are often difficult to grow on industrial scales, and some bacteria can produce nasty byproducts (like methyl iodide, a greenhouse gas). It’s impossible to assess Burd’s results based on a news article – maybe he’ll continue his hot streak and publish in peer-reviewed journal. Still, plastic eating bacteria! From a high school student! Very promising, indeed.
Thanks to Sam for the link.