Two students develop plastic eating bacteria that could save our waters

<span property="schema:name">Two students develop plastic eating bacteria that could save our waters</span>
IMAGE CREDIT:  Plastic pollution ocean study

Two students develop plastic eating bacteria that could save our waters

  • Author Name
    Sarah Laframboise
  • Author Twitter Handle
    @slaframboise14

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The Brains Behind the Discovery

Students from Vancouver, British Columbia, made a revolutionary discovery, a plastic eating bacteria could change the state of plastic pollution in our oceans, which is responsible for the deaths of countless marine animals. Who discovered this plastic eating bacteria? Twenty-one and Twenty-two year old Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao. During their senior year of high school, the two had an idea, one that would solve the pollution problem in their local rivers in Vancouver. 

The students were invited to discuss their “accidental” discovery and claim to fame at a TED talk in 2013. By examining common plastic pollutants, they discovered that the main chemical found in the plastic, called phthalate,  is added to “increase flexibilities, durability and transparency” of plastics. According to the young scientists, currently “470 million pounds of phthalate contaminate our air, water, and soil.”

The Breakthrough

Since there were such high levels of phthalate in their Vancouver waters, they theorized that there must also be bacteria that has mutated to utilize the chemical. Using this premises they found bacteria that did just that. Their bacteria specifically targets and breaks down phthalate. Along with the bacteria, they added enzymes to the solution which further breaks down the phthalate.  The end products are carbon dioxide, water, and alcohol. 

The Future

Even though they are currently finishing their undergraduate studies at universities in the USA, the two are already co-founders of their company, Bio Collection. Their website, Biocollection.com, states that they are soon going to conduct field tests, which will most likely be carried out in China the summer of 2016. In two years the team plans to have a functional commercial process.

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