Scientist discover bacteria that can clean plastic pollution from lakes

Study across 29 Scandinavian lakes finds bacteria that feeds on plastic compounds

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 29 August 2022

An innovative way of removing plastic waste from freshwater lakes has been discovered by researchers from the University of Cambridge.

Naturally-occurring lake bacteria that grow faster and more efficiently on the remains of plastic bags have been discovered by the scientists. These bacteria break down the plastic compounds present in water and consume it for their growth.

Research has suggested that enriching water bodies with these could be a way to remove plastic pollution. The study was carried out on 29 lakes across Scandinavia. It showed that bacteria in lakes favoured plastic-derived carbon compounds over natural ones like wood or leaves.

Carbon compounds from plastics are easier to break down and use as food. Thus, if a lake has a lot of plastic but low bacterial diversity, its ecosystem will be more vulnerable.

The presence of plastic waste and microplastics in water bodies is common across the globe. Such scientific and innovative methods could provide an alternative for cleaning lakes, rivers and oceans.

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