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World Oceans Day: Superhero, Scientists Battle the Plastic Plague

Water-filtration company Multipore sends Dewey, the Clean Water Superhero, on a mission to save the planet from plastic pollution in the oceans, but a far-less-cute plastic-eating fungus might be more effective in the real world.

Norbert Sparrow

June 7, 2024

2 Min Read
comic book cover
Image courtesy of Multipore

Water filtration company Multipore is marking World Oceans Day on June 8 with a new edition of its free comic book series, Dewey, the Clean Water Superhero.

The second issue in the series — The Trash Titan Tumult — follows Dewey and his octopus sidekick, the Aqua Sentinel, “as they embark on a daring mission to thwart the sinister plans of the Waste Wizard and formidable Trash Titan, who threaten our oceans with their insidious plastic pollution.” It all ends well, though, as our intrepid heroes call for collective action to recycle plastic and choose reusable products to “thwart the threat of plastic waste.”

The artwork isn’t half bad, and I guess the storyline might appeal to very young readers. You can download it for free at the Multipore website.

A fungal solution to ocean pollution.

Meanwhile, scientists have discovered a plastic-eating fungus in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The fungus, called Parengyodontium album, doesn’t look nearly as cute as Dewey but it might be more effective at eliminating plastic from the ocean here in the real world.

The scientists claim in a paper published in Science of the Total Environment that P. album is capable of mineralizing UV-treated polyethylene into CO2. Over a period of nine days, mineralization reportedly occurs at a rate of 0.044% per day. “Together, our results reveal the potential of P. album to degrade PE in the marine environment and to mineralize it to CO2,” write the researchers. They stress, however, that the initial photodegradation of PE is a crucial step in the process.

Related:Ocean-bound Plastic Washes Up in Car Interiors

Triggered spores eat plastics.

Similar research into plastic-eating organisms has been prolific of late. One fascinating project at the University of California San Diego envisions adding bacterial spores — Bacillus subtilis, to be precise — to the raw material. “The spores remain dormant during the useful lifetime of the plastic, but spring back to life and start to digest the product when exposed to nutrients in compost,” reported the BBC in an article dated April 30, 2024.

B. subtilis is widely used as a food additive and probiotic and in this particular application has been genetically engineered to withstand the high temperatures involved in plastics processing.

With the support of a manufacturing partner, the technology could be in the real world within a few years, one of the scientists told the BBC. The research is published in Nature Communications.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.

www.linkedin.com/in/norbertsparrow

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