Plastic bottles are incredibly useful and have become a big part of society. Unfortunately despite all of their usefulness, millions of them end up in landfills every year. Many cities and countries recycle them but that it still a difficult and expensive prospect, which is precisely why so many do end up just getting thrown away. To make matters worse, there is currently no easy solution to dispose of the bottles in landfills since they don’t decompose, so they’re just continuing to pile up. The good news is, just this week a team of scientists made a research breakthrough that could solve this massive environmental problem.
Researchers say they’ve successfully tested a new bacteria that is able to digest the plastics often found in bottles and shopping bags. That means that if the bacteria are introduced into a landfill environment they will naturally seek out plastics and break them down by consuming the plastic material as food. This is a huge step forward because it shows that it is actually possible. Many researchers believed it was unlikely or completely impossible to find a bacteria that could successfully digest common plastics.
Of course this isn’t the end all solution and researchers say they’ve got some more work to do before it can become a viable solution. The bacteria, as seen today, still take four to six weeks to fully digest the plastic polymers, which is significantly slower than most bacteria digests food. In order for bacteria to be viable for disposing of plastic they’d like to see that time come down to less than one week. Regardless, this is a huge scientific step in the right direction and it shows that it is only a matter of time before we find the right combination of factors to make it work.
There are already ongoing generic research projects aimed at speeding up bacteria digestion speeds, so combining that with these plastic eating bacteria could be the solution. Only time will tell how successful this will become, but environmentalists are confident that this really is the path to cleaning up the plastics that are polluting the world.