Scientists Have Found Microbes That Eat Plastic at Cool Temperatures. They Could Be a Game-Changer for Recycling

Scientists have already discovered plenty of plastic-munching microbes. A global study in 2021 found 56 microbial species that can do this but most only get going at temperatures of 30˚C or above. Heating them up requires energy which means the process is both costly and carbon-emitting. Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute WSL started looking in the Arctic and the Swiss Alps for microbes growing on buried plastic. They found 19 strains of bacteria and 15 strains of fungi. Most were able to break down plastics in the lab at 15˚C or lower. The scientists are now working to find the best-performing strain. They say this could pave the way for efficient and sustainable plastic recycling at lower temperatures.