Plastic-eating superworms with ‘recycling plant’ in their guts might get a job gobbling up waste

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.

Stanford pediatric arbovirologist Desiree LaBeaud’s quest to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases led to an unlikely culprit: plastic trash

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.

plastic scrap
photo credit: Julia Joppien

 

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.

Read the full story here: https://news.stanford.edu/report/2022/02/09/investigating-mosquito-borne-diseases-led-unlikely-culprit-plastic-trash/

New lightweight material is stronger than steel

New lightweight material is stronger than steel​

via MIT News

The new substance is the result of a feat thought to be impossible: polymerizing a material in two dimensions.

Using a novel polymerization process, MIT chemical engineers have created a new material that is stronger than steel and as light as plastic, and can be easily manufactured in large quantities.

The new material is a two-dimensional polymer that self-assembles into sheets, unlike all other polymers, which form one-dimensional, spaghetti-like chains. Until now, scientists had believed it was impossible to induce polymers to form 2D sheets.

Read the full story here: https://news.mit.edu/2022/polymer-lightweight-material-2d-0202

Partnership to study chemically recycling plastics from ASR

via Recycling Today

plastic scrap recycling

Eastman, Kingsport, Tennessee, has announced that it is collaborating with Padnos and the United States Automotive Materials Partnership LLC (USAMP) on a concept feasibility study to recycle mixed plastic scrap recovered from automotive shredder residue (ASR). USAMP is a subsidiary of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR).  

ASR consists of mixed plastic and other materials and currently end up in landfills or in waste-to-energy technologies. Under this initiative, Padnos, Holland, Michigan, will supply ASR as a feedstock for Eastman’s molecular recycling process. The company operates auto shredders in Holland and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Read the full story here: https://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/padnost-eastman-usamp-studing-chemically-recycling-asr/

MSU Researchers Publish Study On Biomineralization Of Plastic Waste For Cement Mortar

via JDSupra

On April 13, 2021, Montana State University (MSU) researchers from its Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering published an article entitled “Biomineralization of Plastic Waste to Improve the Strength of Plastic-Reinforced Cement Mortar.” The study evaluates calcium carbonate biomineralization techniques applied to coat plastic waste and improve the compressive strength of plastic-reinforced mortar (PRM), a type of plastic-reinforced cementitious material (PRC).

Read the full sotry here: https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/msu-researchers-publish-study-on-8199658/

Plastic waste can now be turned into jet fuel in one hour

via Academic Times

Scientists have found a new way to convert the world’s most popular plastic, polyethylene, into jet fuel and other liquid hydrocarbon products, introducing a new process that is more energy-efficient than existing methods and takes about an hour to complete.

Read the full story here: https://academictimes.com/plastic-waste-can-now-be-turned-into-jet-fuel-in-one-hour/

Microplastics are everywhere — but are they harmful?

via Nature.com

Dunzhu Li used to microwave his lunch each day in a plastic container. But Li, an environmental engineer, stopped when he and his colleagues made a disturbing discovery: plastic food containers shed huge numbers of tiny specks — called microplastics — into hot water. “We were shocked,” Li says. Kettles and baby bottles also shed microplastics, Li and other researchers, at Trinity College Dublin, reported last October1. If parents prepare baby formula by shaking it up in hot water inside a plastic bottle, their infant might end up swallowing more than one million microplastic particles each day, the team calculated.

What Li and other researchers don’t yet know is whether this is dangerous. Everyone eats and inhales sand and dust, and it’s not clear if an extra diet of plastic specks will harm us. “Most of what you ingest is going to pass straight through your gut and out the other end,” says Tamara Galloway, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter, UK. “I think it is fair to say the potential risk might be high,” says Li, choosing his words carefully.

Read the full story here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01143-3

Researchers find how tiny plastics slip through the environment

via Eurekalert

Washington State University researchers have shown the fundamental mechanisms that allow tiny pieces of plastic bags and foam packaging at the nanoscale to move through the environment.

The researchers found that a silica surface such as sand has little effect on slowing down the movement of the plastics, but that natural organic matter resulting from decomposition of plant and animal remains can either temporarily or permanently trap the nanoscale plastic particles, depending on the type of plastics.

Read the full story here: here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-04/wsu-rfh042721.php

Adding enzymes to bioplastics can make them disappear

via Popular Science

With so many different plastics entering the waterways that take hundreds of years to decompose, plastic pollution and microplastics are almost everywhere on the planet, from the air to the sea, in vast quantities. Compostable plastics, like corn-based plastic cups and straws, are sometimes touted as a viable solution, but without the infrastructure to properly turn them into compost, they can end up in a landfill

To keep our oceans from becoming even more plastic-filled, scientists are finding the keys to making plastics quickly decompose, and baking them into the plastic’s formula. Ting Xu, professor of materials science and engineering and chemistry at the University of California Berkeley, and her research group investigate biologically available solutions that will allow single-use plastic to biodegrade under easily attainable conditions. In a new study, they describe how they used an innovative polymer coating on enzymes that can be built-in to bioplastics to make them easier to compost at home. 

Read the full story here: https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/biodegradable-plastics-enzyme/

Plastic Is Falling From the Sky. But Where’s It Coming From?

via Wired

At any given time, 1,100 tons of microplastic are floating over the western US. New modeling shows the surprising sources of the nefarious pollutant.

IF YOU FIND yourself in some secluded spot in the American West—maybe Yellowstone, or the deserts of Utah, or the forests of Oregon—take a deep breath and get some fresh air along with some microplastic. According to new modeling, 1,100 tons of it is currently floating above the western US. The stuff is falling out of the sky, tainting the most remote corners of North America—and the world. As I’ve said before, plastic rain is the new acid rain.

But where is it all coming from? You’d think it’d be arising from nearby cities—western metropolises like Denver and Salt Lake City. But new modeling published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that 84 percent of airborne microplastics in the American West actually comes from the roads outside of major cities. Another 11 percent could be blowing all the way in from the ocean. (The researchers who built the model reckon that microplastic particles stay airborne for nearly a week, and that’s more than enough time for them to cross continents and oceans.)

Read the full story here: https://www.wired.com/story/plastic-is-falling-from-the-sky/