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  • Writer's pictureSinead Mackintosh

IS PLASTIC THE SILENT PANDEMIC?


Each year, we produce over 348 million tons of plastic worldwide. In 2018, China and the EU made up 29.4% and 18.5% (total 47.9%) of the plastic produced globally.


Looking into the future, it’s predicted that by 2050, more than 26 billion tons of plastic will be produced and that more than half of it will end up in landfills and water systems.


Currently, we dispose of plastic via landfills, burning, and mechanical and chemical recycling. We obviously need a better solution, right? What about a more natural solution? Microorganisms and enzymes.


Several microorganisms and enzymes have already been found that can identify different types of plastic. They have been found worldwide, like in soil and plastic waste in landfills, soybeans, and oceans!


But let’s talk about “Pseudomonas bacteria,” found in a plastic landfill, who loves to eat and live off polyurethane. Polyurethane is found in plastics in things like sneakers, diapers, and kitchen sponges.


When it ends up in a landfill, it slowly decomposes and releases toxic chemicals into the soil. It is also challenging to recycle and kills bacteria typically! This hardy and resourceful bacterium uses plastic as its only source of energy, carbon, and nitrogen.


Recently, researchers discovered enzymes that can also “eat” plastic. The enzymes break down the plastic in a liquid that can be recycled to make a non-polluting material! The enzymes, PETase and MHETase, can be combined to create a “super enzyme” that can speed up plastic break down!


Excitingly, pharmaceutical and oil companies are supporting this research because it offers the possibility of a cheaper solution to combat plastic waste build up! Enzymes are cheaper to mass produce than bacteria. So, fingers crossed!


Until then, be conscious of how much plastic you really need to use and how much can be substituted for a recyclable or biodegradable alternative! Collectively we need to do more and use less!


I would like to leave you with an essential and thought-provoking video narrated by Morgan Freeman: https://vimeo.com/444787885?fbclid=IwAR2Tud-5-cBw3Q2aIjPRJb4fCUQWuj4Rk5vWml5tlK8sz_1tIUzEQnzF3dg



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