"Microplastics pose a growing threat to aquatic ecosystems and human health, demanding innovative solutions,” stated Dr. Rojas, UBC Professor.  

New innovations show that plants, insects, and other natural matter might be the answer in treating microplastic pollution. As crazy as it sounds, utilizing nature may be one of the only sustainable ways in saving it. There have been options of natural solutions before these recent studies, previously stating that mycelium, or mushroom root, can be used to decompose plastics. With new innovations popping up almost as frequently as mushroom heads, we could be closer in finding a viable, yet eco-conscious solution. Let's take a look at both options—


Researcher, Karen Wooley, Ph.D., has been working on methods to transform natural products into degradable and digestible polymers for over 20 years, but the sources used are also sourced for food, fuel, construction, and more. So her and her team have been devising new products they can use that don’t come attached with competing applications, deplete the resources, or degrade the importance of their work. The team landed on farming black soldier flies. The larvae of the flies contain protein and nutrient-dense compounds. The immature flies are currently grown for animal feed and waste consumption, but the adult flies have also piqued the team’s interest. Adult flies have short life spans, so using the dead carcasses of the flies as the new starting material has kicked off the team’s research.


Researchers from the UBC’s BioProducts Institute believe they have found a way to harness anatomic natural plant compounds to create a filter that can trap all microplastics present in water. Combining: tannic acids from plants, bark, wood and leaves, and wood sawdust, this method was tested and found that it could trap 95.2% to 99.9% of plastic particles in water. And when tested in mice, the process was found to prevent the accumulation of microplastics in the organs. The solution can be scaled down for home-use or upscaled for treatment systems. It also reduces the contribution to pollution as it is composed of renewable and biodegradable materials.

Both options are in the early stages of development, but both also have promising production values. Developing various methods of alternatives to any means of production is a responsible way of matching scientific intelligence with eco-conscious efforts.