Plastic and microplastic pollution in the ocean may be able to be used as a source for new antibiotics, according to a new study.

Globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic every year, 78 percent of which is NOT reclaimed or recycled. Around  8.8 million tons of plastic get dumped into the oceans every year! Microbes can create entire ecosystems on these plastics and microplastics in the oceans. Plastic debris is rich in biomass, and scientists have realized that this could be a great source for antibiotic production.

Source: Oceana/Youtube

They incubated high and low-density polyethylene plastic, the plastic used for grocery bags, in the water near La Jolla, California, for 90 days. From this, they were able to isolate five antibiotic-producing bacteria from ocean plastic. This included strains of Bacillus, Phaeobacter, and Vibrio.

They tested against a variety of positive and negative targets and found that not only could this be used to target bacteria but two antibiotic-resistant strains as well.

“Considering the current antibiotic crisis and the rise of superbugs, it is essential to look for alternative sources of novel antibiotics,” said Andrea Price, the study’s lead author. “We hope to expand this project and further characterize the microbes and the antibiotics they produce.”

We produce so much plastic every year that ends up in the ocean and landfills. 700 marine animals are faced with extinction due to the threat that plastic poses to them in the form of entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. 50 percent of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. By 2050, 99 percent of all seabird species will have ingested plastic waste. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and if things go on business as usual, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Read more about how companies like Facebook, Tupperware, Google, Dove,  Budweiser, Carlsberg, and FIJI Water are working towards reducing plastic pollution. Places around the world like Tel Aviv, California, Baltimore, Scotland, and many more are banning various single-use plastics, and others are coming up with creative ways to recycle and use plastic waste.

There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter, and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, household cleaners, using mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

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