Goodbye Micro-Plastics?

Fish swimming through micro-plastics, courtesy of New Food Magazine

Fish swimming through micro-plastics, courtesy of New Food Magazine

Beck Gilliland

A new study was released on Wednesday the 28th at the Microbiology Society Annual Conference 2021 about a new piece of bacteria-based biofilm that has show to be able to capture and store micro-plastics.

Micro-plastics are small, broken down pieces of plastic that are under 5mm. These tiny plastics are everywhere now, from the sea to even the top of the mountains here in Colorado. “Rainwater samples collected across Colorado and analyzed under a microscope contained a rainbow of plastic fibers, as well as beads and shards. The findings shocked [Gregory] Wetherbee, who had been collecting the samples in order to study nitrogen pollution” (The Guardian).

Micro-plastics  pick up harmful chemicals on top of the chemicals in the plastic itself. These poisonous chemicals are in the air and move into our food that we eat, slowly harming us. Thankfully, researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University want to use a sticky bacteria property called Pseudomonas aeruginosa to create a tape-like microbe net that can capture micro-plastics in polluted water. This net is an easily disposable and recyclable blob.

The Guardian states that “although these findings, presented on Wednesday at the Microbiology Society’s annual conference, are still preliminary, this invention could pave the way for sustainably lowering plastic pollution levels in the long run by simply using something found in nature.” This finding was presented as a proof-of-concept and there is still a lot of research to do. The bacteria used in the study, aeruginosa, is a disease-carrying bacteria for humans and probably could not be used in large-scale projects. Researchers are confident in the project and see great potential.

This study is game changing for the climate, Earth, and the health of humans and wildlife. This finding could be a solution to reclaiming the millions of tons of plastic in our air, land, and seas. If we eliminate the micro-plastics in the ocean, it will greatly effect the outcome of climate change and will not only improve the health of our oceans, but improve the health of the planet and humankind, as well.