On the weekend I was listening to the dangers today and the subject of plastic came up, interestingly enough there was mention of a solution, why is plastic causing so many problems when initially it saved so many of our animals, we once made items out of ivory, bone wood tortoise shell and if this kept up, we would soon make these animals extinct.
Scientist got to together and discovered that left over oil and acid would make plastic with different chemicals to the type of plastic made like protection hats and everyday items within the home, carrying water and many other uses.
The problem is discarded plastic in landfills around the world can take 450 years to break down and burning of plastic puts dangerous harmful toxic gases like dioxins furans mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls into the atmosphere and if incinerators are inefficient, these leak into the environment.
The consultancy Eunomia says plastics burned in incinerators set up to generate only electricity create heat at 25% efficiency. This is much lower than the 55% efficiency for new gas-fired power stations. This poses a threat to vegetation and human and animal health, burning of plastic releases black carbon soot which contributes to climate and air pollution.
I researched this to find that Indian researchers at Shiv Nadar University in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, have identified two strains of ‘plastic-eating’ bacteria from the wetlands of Greater Noida, an advance that may lead to eco-friendly alternative in tackling the plastic pollution crisis. Wetlands are one of the richest habitats of microbial diversity. The bacterial strains have the potential to decompose polystyrene—a key component in Single-Use Plastic (SUP) items such as disposable cups, cutlery, toys, packaging materials etc. Polystyrene is quite resistant to degradation due to its hight molecular weight and long chain polymer structure.
Therefore, they started a scientific exploration of the wetland in their campus which has led to this significant discovery of plastic-eating bacteria,” said Rupamanjari Ghosh, Vice-Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University.
In the article they stated they started out by just exploring the area to get a sense of bacterial species prevalent in these areas, but ended up isolating numerous bacterial species with unique and useful properties,” added Priyadarshini.
With new bacterial species being discovered with plastic biodegradation ability, she noted that novel enzymes and new potential metabolic pathways can be discovered which could help in bioremediation in the future.
The researchers noted that Exiguobacterium strains were able to establish biofilms on polystyrenes surfaces.
Biofilms are an assemblage of bacterial cells, which grow as communities, reaching to very high cell densities.
This leads to more targeted and localised action of polymer degrading enzymes, the researchers said.
I then looked at what the United Kingdom was doing they stated that a super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two.
The super-enzyme, derived from bacteria that naturally evolved the ability to eat plastic, enables the full recycling of the bottles. Scientists believe combining it with enzymes that break down cotton could also allow mixed-fabric clothing to be recycled. Today, millions of tonnes of such clothing are either dumped in landfill or incinerated
In this article they state the whole planet is contaminated from the Arctic to the deepest oceans and people are known to consume and breathe microplastic particles.
The super enzyme was engineered by linking two separate enzymes both of which were found in the plastic eating bug discovered at a Japanese waste site in 2016 the first enzyme engineered in 2018 which started breaking down the plastic in a few days the super enzyme gets to work six times faster.
With this at hand it makes you wonder why this is not put into action sooner rather than later.