The US Government Wants Us to Eat Plastic

DARPA-funded research aims to solve the problem of plastic pollution by… feeding it to us… No joke… The agency is using bacteria to transform plastic bottles into “protein powder.”

The agency that brought you Agent Orange now wants to feed you plastic  “protein powder.”

As much as I wanted to believe I was reading it wrong, the title of a recent Vice Magazine article is true, the U.S. Government wants to solve the problems of “global hunger and the rising tide of plastic waste” by fishing it out of the ocean, and landfills, and feeding it to us.

“At a lab at Michigan Technical University, bacteria with hardy ‘stomachs’ are being treated like microbial guinea pigs, chomping down on processed plastic to churn out an edible, protein-rich byproduct,” the article says.

The result, is “plastic in a safer, palatable, powdered form you could swig after a grueling iron sesh at the gym.”

The official name of the project is Biological Plastic Reuse, and it’s funded by none other than DARPA – the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – which is responsible for the development of (often top-secret) futuristic technologies for use by the military.

Other innovations for which DARPA can take at least partial credit include: Agent Orange, bomb-dropping drones, high-intensity gamma ray weapons, HAARP‘s “weather control” devices, robot soldiers, remote-controlled insects, computer chip implants for soldiers’ brains, brain-computer interface technology, and last, but not least, Modern a’s latest waxxine.

“Using organisms, whether big or small, to do the dirty recycling work isn’t a novel idea,” Vice reports. “Scientists have known for some time that mealworms like to go ham on polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam. Recently, researchers in Spain discovered wax worms can degrade polyethylene, which accounts for up to 30 percent of daily-use plastic.”

The polyethylene and polypropylene used in plastic bottles has to be chemically pre-treated for a couple of hours in a reactor that turns it into an oily sludge. This allows bacteria like Pseudomonas and Rhodococcus to metabolize it in a matter of days rather than years. Once all the plastic sludge has been consumed, the “fattened” bacteria are “sent to the microbial slaughterhouse,” as Vice puts it.

In other words, they are pasteurized, like raw milk, to make them “safe for human consumption.”

The end product, called “BioPROTEIN”, contains protein and lipids and would likely be enriched with vitamins and minerals.

The project’s lead biologist Stephen Techtmann got the idea to use bacteria to turn plastic into food when thinking about how the organisms had been used in the past to clean up oil spills.

“I had been working on oil spill clean-ups for a long time when I was thinking how oil and plastic have a lot of things in common… plastic is derived from oil, originally,” he told Vice. [Maybe we can transform the byproducts of oil spills into food too??]

“We’re doing a lot of different tests right now to evaluate both the safety and nutritional content of the microbial biomass. We’re working with the regulatory agency to see what we have to do in order to move toward that approval.” 

Techtmann also noted that the plastic protein powder could be marketed as a “sustainable, animal-free” source of protein.

Author’s note: God help us all.