Plastic-eating superworms with ‘recycling plant’ in their guts might get a job gobbling up waste
via SCMP Scientists from Australia’s University of Queensland have discovered that a type of beetle larvae called Zophobas morio can consume and break down polystyrene. Research published in the scientific journal Microbial Genomics on June 9, 2022, says the superworms possess special gut enzymes that can break down plastic. The researchers say they now hope to study the enzymes to engineer ways the substance could be used to break down and dispose of plastic waste in the future.
Scientists have designed a tiny robot-fish that is programmed to remove microplastics from seas and oceans by swimming around and adsorbing them on its soft, flexible, self-healing body.
Microplastics are the billions of tiny plastic particles which fragment from the bigger plastic things used every day such as water bottles, car tyres and synthetic T-shirts. They are one of the 21st century’s biggest environmental problems because once they are dispersed into the environment through the breakdown of larger plastics they are very hard to get rid of, making their way into drinking water, produce, and food, harming the environment and animal and human health.
What seems like a win-win for a pair of pressing environmental problems describes a Rice University lab’s newly discovered chemical technique to turn waste plastic into an effective carbon dioxide (CO2) sorbent for industry.
Rice chemist James Tour and co-lead authors Rice alumnus Wala Algozeeb, graduate student Paul Savas and postdoctoral researcher Zhe Yuan reported in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano that heating plastic waste in the presence of potassium acetate produced particles with nanometer-scale pores that trap carbon dioxide molecules.
LaBeaud’s quest to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases led to an unlikely culprit: plastic trash
via Stanford Report
In 2021, Stanford pediatrician and arbovirologist Desiree LaBeaud and her colleagues launched the nonprofit organization HERI-Kenya to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in Kenya by cleaning up the plastic waste where the insect breed.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is a global havoc-wreaker, responsible for debilitating and deadly illnesses ranging from dengue fever to chikungunya and Zika virus. With a prodigious ability to multiply and a growing range extending from Africa and South America to much of Asia and many parts of the United States, it infects an estimated 400 million people annually.
No vaccines or therapeutics are available for these illnesses, so targeting the insect’s breeding grounds is critical to saving lives.
That’s why, in 2015, one of the first things Desiree LaBeaud did upon joining the Stanford Department of Pediatrics was apply for a Bechtel Faculty Scholar Award. She wanted to use the funds to teach Kenyan school children and community members about the mosquito breeding grounds around their homes. She had been studying mosquito-borne illness in Kenya for over a decade as a pediatric arbovirologist, a specialist who studies diseases caused by blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. She saw that dengue fever was sickening many Kenyan children due to a lack of awareness about its cause and how to prevent it.
The plastic pollution problem is distressingly familiar, but many organisations are working to reduce it. Alongside familiar solutions such as recycling, a surprising ally has emerged: micro-organisms. A handful of microbes have evolved the ability to “eat” certain plastics, breaking them down into their component molecules. These tiny organisms could soon play a key role in reducing plastic waste and building a greener economy.
Americans like to think they are recycling their plastic takeout food containers, cutlery and flimsy grocery bags when they toss them into those green or blue bins. But, too often, that waste is shipped overseas, sometimes with the help of organized crime groups, where it litters cities, clogs waterways or is burned, filling the air with toxic chemicals.
A report published Monday by the independent Swiss research group Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, whose members include current and former law-enforcement officials, sheds new light on how this waste winds up in poorer countries that had agreed not to accept it.
Terming a recent fire incident at the PVC market as the most “intense and widespread”, the fire department said, “It has been observed that the scrap is spilled outside the plots, covering almost the entire stretch of the road, and at some points, it is mixing with the scrap of other plots too. The situation is highly alarming from the fire safety point of view as it helps in propagation of fire at a rapid rate.”
The move comes after a massive fire broke out at an open godown in the PVC market in the Tikri Kalan area on July 11. According to the fire department, it took more than 200 fire-fighters over 10 hours to douse the blaze as PVC materials in huge quantities were stocked up at the spot and since the godown did not have a boundary wall, the risk of the fire spreading to the adjoining areas was high.
German chemists have developed two sustainable plastic alternatives to high-density polyethylene that can be chemically recycled more easily and nearly 10 times as efficiently, thanks to “break points” engineered into their molecular structures.
Derived from plant oils, the new plastics were presented in a paper published Wednesday in Nature as low-waste, environmentally friendly replacements to the conventional fossil fuel-based plastics that enter natural ecosystems at a rate of millions of tons per year.