A bacterium that feeds on toxic plastic has been discovered by scientists. It not only breaks the plastic down but uses it as food to power the process.

The bacterium, which was found at a waste site where plastic had been dumped, is the first that is known to attack polyurethane.

While the research has identified the bug and some of its key characteristics, there is a long way to go before it can be used to treat large amounts of plastic waste.

More than 8bn tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s. Scientists say it threatens a “near permanent contamination of the natural environment”.