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Microbial instructable on the cheap Answered

I'm interested in this instructable on isolating plastic degrading bacteria but the author doesn't appear to be active at the moment.

I have no experience in this area. Any ideas on if/how could perform a valid experiment on the cheap? The only two prohibitively expensive items seem to be an autoclave (I'm assuming I could use a microwave or pressure cooker) and the Hass Broth: The solution used to feed the bacteria containing all their required elements except carbon, which they get from the plastic.

Would it still be a viable experiment if I gave the microbes a banana peel or something and hope they're still hungry for plastic? Also can I get away with using a cheap milligram scale?

I know this isn't a typical type of question but any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Jack A Lopez (author)2018-04-03

This might seem unrelated, but I have read reports of macro-organisms, specifically some kinds of insect larvae, like mealworms, can eat and digest expanded polystyrene (EPS, aka "styrofoam")

Also I have seen, firsthand, evidence of weevils chewing holes through a styrofoam cup. The little beasties were boring their way into my Cup-o-Noodles(r), dry ramen soup.

Although, in contrast to those reports of mealworms eating styrofoam, I do have any evidence the weevils were actually metabolizing the syrofoam from the cups containing my dry soup. I think they were just tunneling their way in, for to get to the dry noodles, which is what they typically feed on; i.e. grains, and food made from grains, like flour, or dry noodles.

I should probably try to find a link to that mealworm-vs-styrofoam story..., um, here:

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=mealworms+eat+styrofoam&...


https://www.popsci.com/mealworms-can-safely-devour...

By the way, it is likely that some kinds of plastic are more easy, or difficult, for cellular life to metabolize.

Also different kinds of plastic are more easy to recycle than others, using the typical industrial, or chemical engineering, methods ( i.e sorting, washing, grinding, melting, dissolving, pyrolysis, etc.)

It turns out that polystyrene was one of those plastics that was more difficult to recycle than others. (PVC is a tricky one too. So are mixtures of plastics, like ABS. ) So it would be fortunate if mealworms, or just mealworm gut microbes, could be used in some scaled-up industrial process to recycle polystyrene.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_recycling

By the way, the type of plastic Instructables member Rch121 was using in the 'ible you linked to... he was using cut up plastic shopping bags, which are made of polyethylene.

What I am saying is that I would not expect there to exist such a thing as a general, "plastic degrading bacterium", because there are so many different kinds of plastics.


I am guessing that you will have to search for bacteria specific to the plastic you want to degrade; e.g. a bacterium for polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE), a bacterium for polyesters (like PET), a bacterium for polystyrene, a bacterium for PVC, and so forth.

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Refinity (author)Jack A Lopez2018-04-13

I'm just figuring this site out so this is a really late response but I just wanted to say thanks for the reply. The mealworm idea might actually be the trick assuming there isn't some reason it can't be done at home. I imagine it would be a cheaper and easier experiment to pull off. Maybe I can even write an instructable on it. Cheers!

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