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Views And Reviews

Bacteria and newsprint

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 16 April 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1046
  1. B Dixon

    It's taken more than 40 years to get there, but I feel vindicated.

    Tear off a one inch by one inch square of newspaper, the book said, and lay it on top of some damp soil in a plant pot. Place the pot in a warm place, keep it moist, and after a month or so the paper will have totally disappeared. Explanation: cellulolytic bacteria and fungi in the soil will have attacked the cellulose fibres of the newsprint, using it as an energy source.

    I tried the experiment, not once but several times. Nothing happened. Even with different newspapers and soils the paper remained disappointingly resistant to biodegradation. So I consulted a teacher. It does not work with glossy paper, …

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