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Plastic eating bugs

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Evolution can take many millions of years or it can seemingly happen overnight, but one thing is certain we as a species produce way too much harmful plastics that are polluting our environment and ultimately damaging our health and wellbeing. So, it is good news to discover that scientists have discovered the existence of a previous unknown form of bacteria that has only been found at a waste site where plastic has been dumped and it feeds on that plastic with great effect.

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The bug is the first in the world to have been studied that is known to attack polyurethane of which millions of tonnes have been dumped globally after it has been used once in such things as sports shoes, nappies, kitchen sponges, plastic bottles and foam insulation. Polyurethane is hard to recycle so it ends up in landfill sites. What is more, when Polyurethane breaks down it continues to be toxic releasing carcinogenic chemicals that usually kill most bacteria but not this newly discovered variety which has developed a taste for the plastic.

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Research into the effectiveness of the bug to eat its way through the plastic we throw away is ongoing, but it certainly looks promising. However, a word of caution, the scientists say that it will probably be another ten years before the bacterium could be used on a large scale.

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