The news item was reported in Science. I wrote about the possibility earlier, but, there, WHOI scientists had not confirmed that microbes were actually consuming plastics. This has been suspected since 2011, due to the work of WHOI scientist Dr Tracy John Mincer studying biofilms on plastics in oceans.
This has been suspected and, until recently, unconfirmed, because the mass balance of plastics entering the oceans greatly exceeds estimates of plastic mass in oceans based upon sampling. There is going to be a multi-day scientific workshop at WHOI addressing these questions. The process by which microbes degrade plastics — essentially using them for food — is still being studied.
- “Bacterial degradation of synthetic plastics“, Dussud, Ghiglione, 2014
- “Biodegradataion of mixture of plastic films by tailored marine consortia“, Syranidou, Karkanorachaki, Axmorotti, Avgeropoulos, Kolvenbach, Zhou, Fava, Corvini, Kalogerakis, 2019