Bacteria are starting to eat plastic

Plastic washed ashore in Bali/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Microbes in oceans and soils across the globe are evolving to eat plastic, according to a study.

The research scanned more than 200m genes found in DNA samples taken from the environment and found 30,000 different enzymes that could degrade 10 different types of plastic…

The study is the first large-scale global assessment of the plastic-degrading potential of bacteria and found that one in four of the organisms analysed carried a suitable enzyme. The researchers found that the number and type of enzymes they discovered matched the amount and type of plastic pollution in different locations…

The explosion of plastic production in the past 70 years, from 2m tonnes to 380m tonnes a year, had given microbes time to evolve to deal with plastic, the researchers said. The study, published in the journal Microbial Ecology, started by compiling a dataset of 95 microbial enzymes already known to degrade plastic, often found in bacteria in rubbish dumps and similar places rife with plastic…

Nearly 60% of the new enzymes did not fit into any known enzyme classes, the scientists said, suggesting these molecules degrade plastics in ways that were previously unknown.

So, is this good news or bad news? Or is it just “news”? There are scary bits in the article; but, on the whole, I think we may be onto something useful.

Record numbers are quitting — but, vast majority like their jobs


A record share of American workers are quitting their jobs, thanks in part to a strong economy and a labor shortage.

Does that mean Americans are unhappy with where they work?

The answer would seem to be yes…That’s the narrative driving the Great Resignation, in which workers are simply fed up with their current jobs and demanding something better.

Survey data I’ve been collecting during the pandemic, along with social survey results from previous years, however, suggests this is far from the whole story. Rather than being motivated simply by dissatisfaction, it appears many of them are simply taking advantage of a strong economy to look around, while for others, the pandemic has prompted them to consider their options.

The General Social Survey, a reputable national survey of American adults, has been asking workers questions about how they feel about the quality of their working life since 2002…(and) by and large the vast majority of Americans – at least according to this survey – express moderate to high satisfaction with their work.

But all in all, the survey data doesn’t support the common narrative that it’s a “take this job and shove it” economy, in which increasingly unhappy workers are finally sticking it to their managers.

But, it does appear that enough folks are sufficiently impressed with the potential for changing jobs…even if that percentage has diminished slightly…they are going to look around. Maybe jump ship!