About 16 billion pounds of plastic flows into the world’s oceans each year. In 2021, the Finnish research center VTT will test a way to start taking it out.
Scientists there have sorted through the realm of bacteria to choose several strains that can digest various forms of plastic and turn them back into raw chemical feedstocks for industry. The bugs will be housed in small factories or refineries designed to be mounted on ships and powered by wind and solar energy.
The ships will be fitted with gear to filter plastics out of ocean water and channel the plastics to the refineries, where the bacteria will break them down into their constituent chemicals.
The bug-based factories also could be set on beaches where plastics wash up.
The research team will be tweaking the chosen bacteria’s genomes to sharpen their ability to process plastic, and they are also developing plastic pre-treatments to make the bugs’ work easier.
TRENDPOST: The new focus on the problem of ocean plastic is creating opportunities for inventors who can not only reclaim seagoing plastics economically but also help build a circular economy in which one stream’s waste is another’s feedstock.

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