Microscopic Cleaners


MICROORGANISMS WHICH dwell on millions of tonnes of plastic pieces floating in oceans are turning out to be a huge help in cleaning the ocean surface. They not only break down the pollutant by eating it, but also make it sink. Analysis of over 1,000 images of plastic material drifting along Australian coastline has shown that diatom was the most common algae which kept on collecting on plastic pieces till they sank. There could be other complex creatures which feed on microbes and toxins. The observations can help explain why plastic pollution on ocean surfaces is not growing at the rate scientists feared it would. It could also give clues to new and improved waste disposal mechanisms on land.


Down To Earth, July 2014