One such solution is the proliferation of plastic-eating microbes. This might sound like something out of a cheesy science fiction film, but it’s a real possibility that is being carefully researched at the University of Malta.
A team of researchers at the university are looking at ways to accelerate plastic deterioration, focusing in particular on plastic bottles, shopping bags and containers (single-use plastics). These plastics linger in the environment indefinitely, even though they are only designed and meant to be used once.
The researchers are currently working with naturally occurring microbes that have not been genetically modified. The hope is that these microbes can completely break down the plastic to leave behind only some of its harmless molecules as a byproduct.
Beyond its work with the microbes, the team is also analyzing how single-use plastics break down over time when in seawater or soil to get a clearer sense of how exactly the plastic deteriorates in naturally occurring microbial communities. There have been some positive results so far with some of the simpler plastic polymers, but the plastic that is commercially sold has a lot more additives added during the manufacturing process to make the materials more durable.
It’s still very early on in the research process, but scientists are hopeful they’ve at least begun to shine a light on a potential solution to a very real problem: the earth is being overrun with plastics, and people are not changing their habits or lifestyles fast enough to mitigate the damage it’s doing to the planet and the environment.
To learn more about the research being done on the breakdown of single-use plastics, contact Soil Advocates today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 289-221-0164.