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‘Plastic-Eating’ Bacteria Found In The Philippines

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Being named one of the top five countries that contribute to half of the world’s plastic pollution, it is quite evident that the Philippines has a plastic problem. In fact, a 2015 study revealed that the archipelagic country in Southeast Asia waste over 6,237,653 kilograms of plastic each day.

Fortunately, hopes of a solution to plastic pollution have been raised after bacteria capable of “eating” plastic was discovered in a hyper-alkaline spring in Zambales. Zambales is a province in the Philippines located in the Central Luzon region in the island of Luzon.

Researchers from the biology department of the University of the Philippines in Baguio have found four strains of bacteria that are equipped for biodegrading low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which is normally utilized for plastic bags, cling wrap, shampoo bottles, and containers.

According to a study, written by Denisse Yans dela Torre, Lee delos Santos, Mari Louise Reyes, and Ronan Baculi, published in the Philippine Science Letter, LDPE is “a commonly-used packaging material that is resistant to degradation under natural conditions” and “contributes to environmental pollution.”

The study inferred that the natural alkaline spring in Zambales, Poon Bato Spring, that contains calcium, magnesium, sulfate, chloride, and iron provided the alkaline pH that supports the growth of this bacteria.

The bacterial strains were able to use the LDPE as their sole carbon source. During the 90-day incubation period, researchers found that four of the nine bacteria that they isolated from the spring have reduced the weight of the plastic polymer.

Through enrichment culture procedures, the bacterial strains were able to reduce the weight of plastic between 5.1% to 9.9%

The office of the UP vice president for academic affairs said in a brief about the study:

“Looking at the physical and chemical changes of the plastics before and after some time with the bacterial isolates, it was deduced that these minute organisms can possibly end plastic domination by making a meal out of it.”

The researchers believe that the discovery will certainly help with the growing problems of plastic in the world. They want to continue the research to learn even more about the bacteria.

The office added:

“The results showed that selected microorganisms exhibited great potential for LDPE biodegradation, a discovery which can be used in reducing solid waste currently accumulating in natural environments.”

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