Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Designing Bugs that eat Plastic

this is a article, quoted in its entirety from the nextnature blog

http://www.nextnature.net/2009/12/designing-the-bugs-that-eat-plastic/

super interesting stuff!


It is a well known secret that plastic hardly breaks down and almost all of the plastic ever made still floats around somewhere. With the great pacific garbage patch now twice the size of Texas and over 500 billion plastic bags produced a year – which take about a 1000 years to decompose – plastic is well on its way of becoming a basic material in the Earths ecosystem.

Earlier, we’ve discussed some of the dramatic effects of this nextnature material and suggested how a future-evolving microbe able to digest plastic, could thrive on the vast amount of plastic ‘food’ available in the biosphere. It might take a million years, however, for such a plastic eating microbe to evolve.

WHY WAIT FOR EVOLUTION?

But why wait for evolution? 16-year old high school student prodigy Daniel Burd already developed a microorganism that can rapidly biodegrade plastic. Daniel realized something that even the most esteemed PhD’s had not considered: Although plastic is one of the most indestructible of manufactured materials, it does eventually decompose. This means there must be microorganisms out there to do the decomposing.

Daniel wondered whether those microbes could be bred to do the job faster and tested this by a simple yet clever process of immersing ground plastic in a yeast solution that encourages microbial growth. After which he only had to isolate the most productive organisms – a sort of speedup of evolution. His first results were encouraging, so he went on, selecting out the most effective strains and interbreeding them. After some weeks of tweaking and optimizing temperatures he achieved a 43% degradation of plastic in six weeks.

Daniel presented a his results at the Canadian Science Fair in Waterloo, Ontario where he won the first price for his study. Meanwhile another 16-year old girl from Taiwan alreadydiscovered a microbe able to break down Styrofoam.

THE ATTACK OF THE PLASTIC EATING MICROBES

Of course it is exciting to have such young geniuses creating plastic eating microbes, however, we should keep in mind that we are ‘playing with fire’ and be concise on the applications. One of the main advantages of plastic – and why we use it everywhere – is that it is not biodegradable. Plastic is used in hospitals, vehicles, homes, industrial settings, etc.

Although it sounds like a great idea to have a colony of plastic-eating microbes clean up the oceans, one can also easily imagine the potential drawbacks of having a plastic-eating bug out in the wild. Perhaps the risk of microorganisms eating up your garden furniture is still acceptable, yet having them enter a hospital setting will be more problematic.

Hence, we should be careful on letting these bugs out in the open and keep in mind that, with every attempt to control nature, we may cause the rising of a next nature which is wild and unpredictable as ever.

Views: 91

Comment by Brian Ballsun-Stanton on March 18, 2010 at 3:20am
Oh, this is a tremendously bad idea. Making a plastic-eating bacteria/algae will have /all kinds/ of unintended consequences.
Comment by glim on March 18, 2010 at 3:37am
unintended doesn't necessarily mean bad. and even if it does, everything we do has all kinds of unintended consequences. usually tho, we are all ready working on doing something bad, like burying toxic waste or strip mining a mountain. unintended consequences happen all the time. trying to do something powerful and positive for the environment, still kinda rare.
Comment by Brian Ballsun-Stanton on March 18, 2010 at 3:55am
Well, certainly. But think about it. If we've got a self-reproducing microbe that consumes plastic, suddenly all of our plastics that we /use/ and depend on will start "rusting." And we don't have any infrastructure dedicated to that.

How can we avoid the destruction of our plastics while reaping the positive benefits here?
Comment by glim on March 19, 2010 at 10:10pm
i am kind of an extremist but, the destruction of plastics is a positive benefit. i am confused how removing something that leaks toxins when its a water bottle, give off carcinogenic gas if it cooled or heated (like in a refrigerator even) and leaks toxics into the surrounding soil when it is buried is not a good thing...

Comment

You need to be a member of Urgent Evoke to add comments!

Join Urgent Evoke

Latest Activity

N updated their profile
Sep 25, 2020
Sophie C. commented on Asger Jon Vistisen's blog post Stinging Nettle
"I love that you've brought this to attention. An extensive database of uncommon but resistant and hardy plants/foods could be developed and organized by climate. Ease of growth and processing should also be taken in to account. I will try to…"
Aug 19, 2020
Meghan Mulvey posted a blog post

Fourth of July on the Lake

This past weekend was the annual celebration at the lake house in Connecticut. It is amazing that the lake is still so clear and beautiful after all these years. The watershed association has done a wonderful job protecting these waters from the damaging effects of development.The wood grill was finally ready to cook on, so we didn't miss the propane tank fueled grill anymore. The food actually tasted fresher than in the past and was easy to keep fueled.Dad was very proud of the solar hybrid…See More
Jul 6, 2020
Asger Jon Vistisen posted a blog post

Stinging Nettle

In this blog post I will focus on a plant that is abundant in our nature, and which is immensely nutritious. It's of course the Stinging Nettle. Let's start with the chemical constituents of this plant:37 % Non-Nitrogen-Extracts19 - 29 % Ash9 - 21 % Fiber4 % Fat22 % ProteinOnce the leaves are drid, their protein content can reach an astounding 40 %, which is much higher than beef, which even under the best of circ***tances can never exceed 31 % protein. In addition the Stinging Nettle consists…See More
Apr 13, 2020
Jonathon McCallum posted a blog post

The meal

It is 7'oclock, I was late home from work due to an assignment that i wanted to get ahead on. By the time I get home I am feeling extremley tired and I cannot be bothered to make a proper meal. I walk to the fridge and open it to see what there is for me to eat. All of the out of date foodstuffs have been automaticaly thrown away by the fridge, they will be recycled tomorrow as animal feed or something. I see i have organic local eggs and some local cheese. Foods are vacc** sealded for easy…See More
Mar 10, 2020
Jean Paul Galea shared a profile on Facebook
Mar 1, 2020
Kevin posted a blog post

Future

FutureToday is 2020/1/1. It is just like yesterday. The war is still continuing. It has started since 2010. In 2010, that year was a horrible year. Almost every energy ran out. Every country’s governments were crushed down at the same time. There were riots everywhere. All of the big company’s bosses were killed xdeadx in the riots. Troops fought each other everywhere. Food was bought up xawayx at once. There were no more food supplies in any shops. The economy was all crushed down. All the…See More
Jan 1, 2020
Namwaka Mooto posted blog posts
Jan 13, 2016
T D updated their profile
Sep 3, 2015
Brook Warner posted blog posts
Aug 25, 2015
Santiago Vega posted blog posts
May 5, 2015
Santiago Vega commented on Santiago Vega's blog post Act 8
May 5, 2015
Santiago Vega posted photos
May 5, 2015
Rico Angel Rodriguez posted blog posts
May 2, 2015
Rico Angel Rodriguez posted a photo

public servants

The exchange works directly for state and public workers and servants. It gives them credit in exchange for the amount of public work they contribute to the community. The more constructive they are based off a base rate the more credit they recieve.
May 2, 2015
Brian Hurley posted blog posts
May 2, 2015

Follow EVOKE on Twitter




Official EVOKE Facebook Page




EVOKE RSS Activity Feed










© 2021   Created by Alchemy.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service