Work details
Application Number 0000901585
Author Huber, Michelle , United States
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Work title: Plastisphere (0000901585)

Amaral-Zettler and Mincer found genetic and microscope evidence of eukaryotes — organisms with more complicated cells than bacteria — on the plastic. What she calls the "plastisphere" might contain complex living communities. "It may be a little world that we''ve created, for better or worse." The Wood''s Hole scientists aim to sample more ocean plastic and to isolate, culture and identify the microbes found on it. Then they can determine if and how they''re digesting the plastic and discover what the by-products are. -“Marine Microbes digest plastic”…nature news march 2011, Gwyneth Dickey Zaikab. In a weird and fortuitous collision prompted by the cohabitation of humans and plastic eating microorganisms we have learned how to consume what was once discarded. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a large patch of floating plastic. It is thought that ten percent of the plastic the industrialized world produces every year eventually finds its way back to the ocean and into the Pacific Gyre. The plastic deteriorates into billions of tiny pieces; most are 1 millimeter or less in size. The Gyre, a natural feature of the Pacific Ocean, circulates and retains its contents in the tidal currents. The plastic becomes a homogenized soup of particles. It absorbs, transports and releases its contents; including hydrophobic pollutants (PCB, DDE, DDT). Ninety percent of all the trash in the ocean is made of plastic. Like wet paint drying, geologic time has long periods of silence with episodes of sudden and catastrophic change. We have reached the point of peak oil; our petroleum reserves are depleted. The world is warm. The sky and sea are heavy with old explosions, movements, carbon and oxygen. It’s an exhale of over 200 years of global industry; of moving faster and faster. This project looks at what happens when we step off of the land and go back into the sea. Today, in a world where carbon, air and water are commodities; pollution likewise can be a valuable platform for not only economic, but biologic exchange. Plastisphere is an experiment in regaining the embodied energy whirling around as plastic pollution in the Pacific Gyre. While providing for the basic needs of its inhabitants the project harbors the interdependence between the ocean and humans. A temporal craft; it floats, trades, restructures, glows and values the marginal; trash. Through the aid of scientific advancements in the development of plastic eating microorganisms; plastic pollution becomes a biological fuel. Plastishpere is initially constructed on land. A conglomeration of discarded cargo containers, steel and molded pockets of plastic made to float when sent to sea. The people that take part in the project are a tribe of researchers living on the vessel and promoting its economy. Their work is the innovation of plastic eating organisms while living on the tidal flows of the Pacific. A small scale society is created by those taking part in the unrestricted self-supported exploration. Parasitic in nature; it thrives off of and disrupts its host, the global economy. The flotilla travels with the flows in the Gyre, collecting plastic chum along the way. One of the greatest untapped energy resources in the world is the natural motion of the sea. Large tentacle-like siphons provide electricity for the vessel. The arms double as working turbines collecting energy as the sections of the siphon oscillate on the oceans surface. Through them, water containing the plastic soup is sucked up, sorted and processed. Plastic is remediated in two ways: mechanically for the material needs of the inhabitants (such as housing and the expansion of the Plastisphere), and biologically with the help of plastic eating bacteria, photosynthetic algae (dinoflagellates), humans, and other critters. The majority of the plastic accumulated is converted into organic matter. Living on a plastic tide: Plastisphere will last only as long as there is fuel, plastic pollution in the ocean for it to thrive on. Its success is built into its final act corrosion; intentional self destruction. In the absence of sustenance, the bacterium begins to process the structure itself; a gut digesting itself from the inside out.