Saturday, May 8, 2010

Oceanic Plastic Cleanup

Discovery News is reporting that a bacteria colony has evolved the ability to consume plastic. This is excellent news.
In the pacific ocean, floating swarms of plastic have become a severe problem. An enormous swath of floating discarded plastic has reached twice the size of Texas, and roams around the ocean. In the affected areas, sure the ocean looks blue, but if you ran a plankton net through it, you'd get a whole bunch of plastic for your trouble. This is proving problematic for filter feeding albatrosses, who get large amounts of plastic in their diet. They have been turning up dead on the pacific's many small islands, their digestive systems clogged with loads and loads of plastic garbage. The garbage becomes apparent when the bird dies.
If these microorganisms could be bred to handle to the greater salinity of the open ocean, then we could deploy them in colonies in the middle of the patch, and the patch would quickly be consumed, leaving the water pure. If the plastic ran out, probably the microorganisms would die off and sink to the bottom.

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