Microbes Found to Melt Plastic in Ocean

Can a new found bacteria save us from our plastic carelessness? The 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii may have found an answer. They recently discussed the discovery of a bacteria in the Sargasso Sea that seems to be melting away our plastic pollution. Scientist Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Massachusetts found a bacteria in microscopic views of a plastic bag, some fishing line, and a plastic pellet. He viewed a bacteria called vibrios, which is related to food borne illnesses, such as food poisoning from raw seafood. Eukaryote were found in the plastic reefs, as well. They are more complicated than bacteria, and may be creating a whole new community unknown to humans.

It appears as if the microbes are burning through the plastic, but cannot be seen if they are eating or digesting it back into the environment. This is the first time that microbes have been found to break down plastics in the ocean but not the first time ever. As of January 2009, a 16-year old boy named Daniel Burd created a tweaked yeast solution that broke down plastics that can be found in landfills. The results of his scientific research project did not conclude if the byproducts were carcinogenic or not, and neither did Tracy Mincers findings.

It would be an amazing find if the microbes are disintegrating our plastic pollution without carcinogenic results, but a detrimental one if they are giving it back to our marine life as a more harmful toxin. So we must wonder, are these plastic melting microbes helping or destroying our environment?