Polyurethane eating microbe could be the answer to plastic pollution 

Microbe that can break down hard-to-recycle plastics used in products ranging from furniture to fridges could be the answer to plastic pollution Scientists identified a tiny organism that can break down polyurethane plastic These are very difficult to recycle plastics as they don't melt down when heated This type of plastic is used in a wide range of products including shoes and cars 

By Ryan Morrison For Mailonline

Published: 04:00 GMT, 27 March 2020 | Updated: 04:00 GMT, 27 March 2020

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A microbe that is able to break down plastics used in furniture, fridges and other products could be the answer to solving the plastic pollution problem.  

Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Leipzig identified a bacteria that can break down the problem material.

The tiny organism is capable of degrading polyurethane - a plastic material used in everything from furniture to fridges.

Polyurethane accounts for 3.5 million tons of plastic produced in Europe each year and it difficult to recycle as it is impossible to melt when heated.

A microbe that is able to break down plastics used in furniture, fridges and other products could be the answer to solving the plastic pollution problem. Stock image

A microbe that is able to break down plastics used in furniture, fridges and other products could be the answer to solving the plastic pollution problem. Stock image

It has lightweight, insulating and flexible properties making it perfect for use in bedding, shoes, buildings and car parts. 

The waste mostly ends up in landfills where it releases toxic chemicals - some of which have the potential to cause cancer.

The team of German researchers have identified a microbe that could put an end to this problem of stockpiling polyurethane plastic waste.

The team isolated the bacterium Pseudomonas sp. TDA1 from a site rich in brittle plastic waste that shows promise in attacking the chemical bonds that make up Polyurethane plastics.

They identified the degradation pathways and factors that help the microbe metabolise certain chemical compounds in plastic for energy to live.

Study co-author Dr Hermann J. Heipieper, a senior scientist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Leipzig, said: 'There may be a small answer to one of the biggest problems on the planet.

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