Could bacteria useful to tackle plastic problems
In your cupboards and closets, you're likely to have several different types of plastics. Your home contains a lot of plastic in various forms, from juice bottles to detergent containers. What happens when it's empty? When the bottles or packages are empty, it's just as likely that your waste and recycling hauler won't accept many of these plastics. The presence of a recycling symbol on an item does not imply that it can be recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, just over 80 million tonnes of food packaging and containers were produced in 2017. Although there appears to be a lot of recycled plastic, the recycling rate is only about half of what ends up in the trash. Approximately 32 million tonnes end up in landfills, while approximately 8 million tonnes are used to generate energy.
Decomposition takes hundreds of years, and burning or burying it only adds to the problem. Even if a piece of plastic degrades, its molecules remain in our rivers and oceans, where they are consumed by creatures at the bottom of the food chain.
To give you an idea of how bad things are, about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste escapes into the oceans each year from coastal nations.
That's the same as dumping five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline on the planet!
As a result, researchers are always looking for novel ways to recycle and reuse plastics. Bacteria that breaks down plastic faster than normal is one of the most recent breakthroughs.
How Does Bacteria Break Down Plastic?
Scientists discovered bacteria that can break down polyurethane components that are harmful to the environment. Pseudomonas putida is a bacterium that thrives on polyurethane diol and converts it to energy. As a result, even if exposed to the elements, items treated with it will take centuries to degrade. The microorganisms eat this covering, speeding up the decomposition of plastics.
That's great news, but there's a drawback. Polyurethane diol can be digested by bacteria, but only in small amounts. Because it is unable to digest huge amounts, so its benefit may be small. It's still a positive step forward. It’s resulted in other advancements and discoveries.
There's a more recent discovery that appears to be significantly more promising. In 2016, Japanese researchers discovered an enzyme that breaks down plastics more quickly than ever before. At room temperature, the super-enzyme breaks down plastics six times faster. This enzyme is likely to be used to break down plastics in landfills and other environments within two years.
Recently, French researchers discovered an enzyme in composting leaves that can degrade almost all of a plastic bottle in less than 10 hours. The only disadvantage of this enzyme is that it requires temperatures of at least 158 degrees F.
Combinations of these enzymes and microbes are being tested to see whether they might break down plastics even faster. Hopefully, microorganisms and enzymes will solve the problem of plastics.
Why Don’t People Recycle?
When it comes to establishing a road toward efficient and effective recycling, there are various critical hurdles and limitations like
- The majority of people have no personal motivation to recycle. Unfortunately, there is no financial benefit to recycling. Most people believe that recycling is a waste of time unless they have a personal interest to do it.
- Some cities do not have a recycling programme. As a result, consumers must conduct research to locate recycling sites in their area, and they lack the motivation to do so.
- The required procedures such as washing out containers or cans, bagging specific items individually, and dropping them off at a recycling center, appear to be time-consuming. As a result, people are less inclined to recycle on a regular basis.
- It's also a problem when products that may be recycled are thrown. Before plastics may be recycled, they must be cleaned. Containers containing greasy foods and sauces, such as peanut butter, are more difficult to clean. People may give up and discard it or recycle it without cleaning it, posing a problem for solid waste district workers.
Why you should Recycle?
Look out at these points why we should all recycle.
- Recycling means keeping trash out of landfills.
- It cuts down on the amount of fresh raw materials we need.
- This process contributes in conserving energy.
- It provides employment opportunities.
- It also contributes in reducing pollution.
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