Around the world: plastic-eating bacteria, space tech and blue carbon ecosystems
From exciting developments around how to deal with plastic waste, to World Heritage marine sites that store billions of tonnes of CO2—discover the stories that caught our eye this week.
The Race To Develop Plastic-Eating Bacteria
In March 2016, scientists in Japan published an extraordinary finding. After scooping up some sludge from outside a bottle recycling facility in Osaka, they discovered bacteria which had developed the ability to decompose, or “eat,” plastic.
The bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis, was only able to eat a particular kind of plastic called PET, from which bottles are commonly made, and it could not do so nearly fast enough to mitigate the tens of millions of tons of plastic waste that enter the environment every year.
Still, this and a series of other breakthroughs in recent years mean it could one day be possible to build industrial-scale facilities where enzymes chomp on piles of landfill-bound plastic, or even to spray them on the mountains of plastic that accumulate in the ocean or in rivers.
Tubbs says creating 3D scans of individual plants, a simple process that takes about a minute, can help scientists pinpoint plants with the most desirable traits and outcomes in the field and use them to breed superior ryegrass and other kinds of plants, from rice and barley and wheat to fruits and vegetables.
These superior plants will be highly insect-resistant and drought tolerant, and require little to no pesticides, he says.
Protected marine sites around Australia are crucial for capturing and storing of greenhouse gases, according to a new UNESCO report.
The findings are revealed in an analysis of the 50 seagrass meadows, tidal marshes and mangroves across 37 nations that have World Heritage status – meaning they are globally outstanding places that are protected under the 1972 World Heritage Convention.