New possibilities in the field of waste management at a global level arise from the findings of a group of scientists who identified plastic phagocytic bacteria and fungi in coastal salt marshes of China.

“A total of 184 strains of fungi and 55 bacteria capable of breaking down” various plastics were found in east China’s Jiangsu province, the Royal Botanic Garden of Qiu said in a statement.

According to a study published on Thursday, research conducted in China and the United Kingdom in May 2021 sampled microorganisms from China’s Dafeng, a UNESCO-protected area near the coast of the Yellow Sea.

A “land plastic sphere” has been identified, described as an “anthropogenic niche”, meaning an ecosystem that has evolved to live in the presence of coastal plastic debris.

“Scientists are increasingly looking to micro-organisms such as fungi and bacteria to help tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time, including the rising tide of plastic pollution,” Kew Botanic Gardens said.

The new findings add to existing studies on plastic-degrading microorganisms, with some 436 species of fungi and bacteria found to date capable of breaking down plastic.

“The Kew scientists and their colleagues believe their latest findings could lead to the development of effective enzymes designed to biodegrade plastic waste,” the statement continues.