University of Leicester: Planting plastic could help cut pollution

Students at the University of Leicester are asking for help with an experiment to find an organism that can quickly break down polystyrene waste.

Polystyrene has been used in plastic packaging for years but takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.

Volunteers are being asked to bury a piece of polystyrene in the garden from a special kit created by the students.

It is hoped results will enable them to create a new microbe to speed up the degrading process.

'Elusive microbes'

Project leader Christopher Morton, said the polystyrene pieces would be collected and tested in the lab for traces of microbes that had colonised and might be consuming them.

The team can then find parts of the microbes' DNA, with the aim of transferring these genes to the new bacteria they create.

Mr Morton said: "The main aim of the experiment is to find the elusive polystyrene degrading microbes.

"We hope this will get people thinking about placing an experimental kit in an unusual place which will result in us finding the microbes."

Anthony Cox, also from the project, said: "The greatest thing the public will get out of this project is the satisfaction of knowing they've helped out in [something] which could ultimately be of great benefit to the environment."

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