Scientists have unveiled a type of bacterium that is able to feed on toxic plastic – specifically polyurethane, which is a notorious problem plastic because it is rarely recycled.  The bacterium was discovered at a waste management site in Germany, where it was breaking down polyurethane and using it as energy.

Polyurethane is widely used in products such as trainers, insulation, nappies and kitchen sponges, with these items usually sent to landfill at the end of their life as a result.  Its toxicity kills most bacteria when the material is broken down, but the newly discovered bug (a strain of Pseudomonas bacteria) not only survives but actually thrives on it – meaning it could be a future sustainable solution to polyurethane disposal (although the scientists warn it could take 10 years to use it at scale).

Previous research has shown that fungi can eat PET plastic, and moth larvae can consume polythene, but the scientists behind the new discovery – at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Leipzig – say that bacteria are easier to control for industrial purposes such as waste management.

further reading…

Scientists have unveiled a type of bacterium that is able to feed on toxic plastic – specifically polyurethane, which is a notorious problem plastic because it is rarely recycled.  The bacterium was discovered at a waste management site in Germany, where it was breaking down polyurethane and using it as energy.

Polyurethane is widely used in products such as trainers, insulation, nappies and kitchen sponges, with these items usually sent to landfill at the end of their life as a result.  Its toxicity kills most bacteria when the material is broken down, but the newly discovered bug (a strain of Pseudomonas bacteria) not only survives but actually thrives on it – meaning it could be a future sustainable solution to polyurethane disposal (although the scientists warn it could take 10 years to use it at scale).

Previous research has shown that fungi can eat PET plastic, and moth larvae can consume polythene, but the scientists behind the new discovery – at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Leipzig – say that bacteria are easier to control for industrial purposes such as waste management.

further reading…