Blog

These incredible bacteria eat plastic, but they’re not quite the end to our rubbish woes

In a surprising discovery by a team of Japanese scientists, a species of bacteria has been found to be able to eat the type of plastic that's used in many of the products of our throw-away lifestyle.

It's hoped that the bacteria could help to manage our global waste habit that sees over 50 million tonnes of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic produced every year.

You might be familiar with PET from plastic water bottles, polyester clothing and blister packs containing medicine. Chances are you have a few kilos of the stuff lying around your house. It's popular with manufactures because it's lightweight, colourless and fairly tough, but it's also near impossible to get rid of once it's been produced.

1 Million Women is empowering women and girls around the world to lower their impact on the planet. If you love what we do, please support our work by donating a couple of dollars. For the price of a cuppa, you can help us inspire millions more! (click to donate)

According to Phys.org , while previous studies "had found a few species of fungi can grow on PET", the new study shows that some types of bacteria can actually eat the plastic.

While this all sounds pretty impressive, it's worthwhile that this research is still only in its infant stage. On top of that, breaking down plastics using microbes isn't a whole lot more effective than recycling methods.

"When I think it through, I don't really know where it gets us," said researcher Tracy Mincer, "I don't see how microbes degrading plastics is any better than putting plastic bottles in a recycling bin so they can be melted down to make new ones."

Could you fit all of your rubbish for a year into two plastic bags? This guy can!

It's not just bacteria that are hungry for plastics, either. We've previously heard of Styrofoam-eating worms and mushrooms that can't get enough of snacking on chunks of plastic waste.

All these amazing new technologies won't change the fact, however, that our planet is home to massive plastic gyres whirling around the ocean, including the hideous Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

What you can do

There are so many ways that we can reduce plastic, and it starts with you.

We have heaps of great resources to help you cut down on your plastic consumption, which in turn will hopefully inspire those around you to follow suit:

5 easy steps to quit plastic (from The Rogue Ginger) - Follow these five everyday simple choices and you will find quitting single use plastic seamless.

[Infographic] How to get plastic out of your life! - Helpful tips to finding environmentally friendly alternatives to the plastic that can sneak into your everyday life.

2 common questions about kicking the single-use plastic habit answered - But what about the plastic in...? Answering the common questions repeated often by those who may starting to kick the plastic habit.

See more of Our Top Post to Help You Live Plastic-Free

Images: Shutterstock

1 Million Women is more than our name, it's our goal! We're building a movement of strong, inspirational women acting on climate change by leading low-carbon lives. To make sure that our message has an impact, we need more women adding their voice. We need to be louder. Joining us online means your voice and actions can be counted. We need you.


Steph Newman Former Social Media Assistant Suggest an article Send us an email

Recent Blog Articles