Green heavy industry: Little microbes can make a big difference for a carbon negative world

Chicago, Illinois - Bacteria aren't usually the first thing people look to help solve the climate crisis, but by changing up their genes, researchers have managed to breed a greener microbe that could hold make a huge difference for the future.

Bacteria could be another piece to the climate puzzle.
Bacteria could be another piece to the climate puzzle.  © IMAGO / Panthermedia (stock)

According to Science, Biologists from LanzaTech, an Illinois biotech company, have bred a species of bacteria, Clostridium autoethanogenum, which is designed to chow down on waste gases from steel plants.

They chose the little microbes that most enjoyed a varied diet, chock-full of CO2 and other emissions from heavy industry and landfills.

The bacteria are so green, that they actually store CO2 when they digest waste gases, making them carbon negative.

The Holy Grail of climate action is making every part of our society carbon negative, in order to counter the rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions and stave off the worst effects of climate change.

So on the surface, using the bacteria to basically recycle emissions looks like a good idea, especially with high-profile partnerships to turn industrial waste gases into all sorts of everyday items, according to the company's website.

"LanzaTech is working with Unilever, Mibelle, L’Oréal, Lululemon, Zara and COTY to bring packaging, clothing, perfume, laundry detergent and household cleaners into your homes," it boasts.

However, this also sounds like there might be less actual storing of the CO2 captured by the bacteria and more just reusing products that don't always get recycled properly.

But if the captured carbon gets locked away, and doesn't make its way back into our atmosphere, then the researchers may just have found a way to help make heavy industry more sustainable.

Imagine a horde of tiny bacteria helping save the world by snacking on the CO2 emissions from steel plants, garbage dumps, or any other source of polluting gases.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia (stock)

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