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Plastic Eating Microbes Found In The Alps

A close up of plastic watse

MNK Blog

Plastic Eating Microbes Found In The Alps

A Chilling End To Plastics

Hello Tech Lovers!

In the Alps, microbes that can east plastic at low temperatures have been discovered.

Microorganisms capable of destroying plastic polymers have previously been discovered and as a result, scientists and businesses have latched onto bioengineering enzymes found in bacteria and fungi, as a means to tackle plastic pollution.

picturesque scene of a wooden shack on a hillside with the alps mountains in the background

However, since the majority of those found require high temperatures to function, the industry has been limited due to the process been costly and not carbon neutral.

The most effective performers are two fungi discovered by the Swiss Federal Institute, which work at just 15 degrees Celsius. They are capable of digesting biodegradable polyester-polyurethane (PUR), and two commercially available biodegradable mixtures of polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) and polylactic acid (PLA.)

PUR is commonly used in artificial textiles, PBAT is used widely in industries for packaging, and PLA is found in biomedical applications.

A total of nine fungi, and eight, bacteria species from multiple genera found, are able to digest PUR. And a total of 14 fungi and three bacteria, managed to eat mixtures of PBAT and PLA

During the hunt for a microbe capable of digesting in the cold, the team studied 19 strains of bacteria and 15 fungi growing on plastic that had been left behind, or intentionally buried in Greenland, Svalbard, and Switzerland.

Scientists let isolated microbes grow as single-strain cultures in a dark laboratory at 15 degrees Celsius. Molecular techniques were used to identify them.

In the study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, in total, 59% of strains, including 11 fungi and eight bacteria, could digest PUR at 15 degrees Celsius

Read the related blog post, ‘Scientists Use Mushrooms To Make Biogradable Computer Chips’ here

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Adam – MNK Founder