The Lounge of the Adventurer – lots of randomness with sprinkles made of comedy and a filling of our finest quality spite

[Schoolwork] Bacterial Breakdown of Plastics

Posted on: 29 January 2010

Performed a variation of this in class, almost ad-libbing it. I think I did well. I basically read it off as a script of sorts.

==

Problem exists: Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. Caused by the circular motion of the Pacific ocean currents, coupled with decades of bad trash practice, it sits anywhere from at surface level to tens of meters below the surface. This problem does not present itself as if it were an island, though; instead, it’s a nebulous conglomerate of various patches. The total size of the conglomerate is unknown, but is estimated at weighing over 700,000 tonnes.

What does this have to do with microbial life? Well, plastic is generally non-biodegradable. Methods used to break down plastics (as of the writing of the article I’m using for my source) are entirely chemical, except for photodegradation [EXPLAIN IT]. which merely makes the problem worse as the pieces just become easier to consume. Biodegradation specifically involves the breakdown of materials into base chemicals, not smaller pieces as photodegradation would do. Most microbes cannot identify the plastics as proper food, leaving them to sit there and do nothing. However, there is potential hope.

A type of bacteria has been noted to be able to consume nylon, discovered in the 1970s. A strain of Flavobacterium (non-motile, gram-negative, rod-shaped) was found in the waste water pond near a nylon factory in Japan, producing three enzymes that were entirely ineffective against any material other than the man-made nylon. Since this nylon compound could not have existed before 1935, the development of these Flavobacterium is fantastic in and of itself.

The experiment was reproduced using a strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (gram-negative, unipolar motility, rod-shaped, aerobic) in an environment where no food existed other than nylon. They evolved to produce a different mixture of enzymes than the Flavobacterium discharge. For additional SCIENCE, scientists were able to do a plasmid transfer as we did to transfer the enzyme-producing sequences into an E.coli from the Flavobacterium.

Pseudomonas has recently also been identified as an aid in the reproduction of a type of Sphingomonas, which is capable of breaking down plastic strips cut from grocery bags as found in an experiment performed by a Canadian student. The article mentions researchers in Ireland discovering that Pseudomonas as being able to break down polystyrene, but no experiments to that date had been performed with polyethylene, as exists in grocery bags. The Canadian polyethylene experiments allowed a 32% degradation in 6 weeks, while the Irish polystyrene experiments showed 43% degradation in 6 weeks.

http://news.therecord.com/News/CanadaWorld/article/354044

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/what-is-the-great-pacific-ocean-garbage-patch

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ABOUT THE HAWKING CHILD

My name is Daniel Hawking.

There are three fractions that make up this persona.

One of which is sealed closed via the physical realm of the world. One of which is unlocked via the medium known as the Internet. One of which is standing tall, watching over the wondrous horizon in front of him.

Of the first, this is the one most who have met me see, the one shunned, the one unappreciated, the one treated as entertainment instead of a colleague, the one shunted off to the side.

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