Science in Action

BBC World Service

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The BBC brings you all the week's science news.


Plastic Eating Bacteria

March 10th, 2016

Episode 82 of 158 episodes

About 311 million tonnes of plastics are produced every year and 90% of these are derived from petrol. Most of this is used for packaging and only about 14% is recycled. As the plastics are made to be durable and stable, they remain as waste in the environment. The effect from plastic waste on microbes, fishes, birds etc is huge, not to mention unsightly for humans. A solution would be to produce plastics that are degradable from renewable resources. This now maybe possible thanks to a discovery by a team of Japanese scientists who have found a bacterium that can fully degrade a widely used plastic. Professor Uwe Bornscheuer from the University of Greifswald explains why this finding is so significant. Air pollution in Ulan Bator Fast growing cities like Beijing, New Delhi and Ulan Bator suffer from increasing air pollution – with ever larger numbers of motor vehicles and developing industries, the smog often clouds the air and causes health problems. Ulan Bator faces a special challenge because the winters are exceptionally cold. Many people in Mongolia’s capital city live in traditional yurts that are heated with coal fires. Temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius keep the smoke from the fires from dispersing. Dr Purevdorj Olkhanud, from the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences, travels back and forth between the US and Mongolia, where he gathers data on air quality in Ulan Bator to improve the public health situation. Senegal Science Meeting The Next Einstein Forum is underway in Senegal, aiming to encourage more women into science across Africa. Julian Siddle reports from Dakar. Slithering Snakes For the first time scientists in the US have monitored how snakes move. They’ve found that they have a specific stereotyped waveform movement across sand. Johnathan Webb has been to investigate. Exomars to launch Europe and Russia are going back to Mars. Final preparations are underway for the ExoMars launch on Monday from Baikonur. Jonathan Amos speaks to Exomars project Scientist Dr. Jorge Vago about the mission. (Photo: Serbian amateur ecologist Srboljub Pesic examining the South Morava river filled with discarded plastic bottles and other garbage, near the town of Vranje. SASA DJORDJEVIC/AFP/Getty Images)) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz Assistant: Lauren

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