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Revolutionizing Waste Management: The Marvel of Plastic-Eating Bacteria

Revolutionizing Waste Management: The Marvel of Plastic-Eating Bacteria

Water and Waste Management | Jan, 2024

Waste management has become a major issue for the whole world. Among all the waste that is generated by humans, plastic waste is the most daunting one. Plastic is non-biodegradable and can survive in the environment for hundreds of years. It affects the world's oceans, rivers, and other natural habitats. Scientists have been working tirelessly to develop innovative solutions to this problem, including the use of plastic-eating bacteria. In this blog, we will explore the marvel of plastic-eating bacteria that has the potential to revolutionize waste management. Plastic-eating bacteria are microorganisms that can consume plastic waste. Scientists have discovered that these bacteria can break down the plastic into its fundamental chemical components, which can then be naturally assimilated back into the environment. This is a revolutionary solution because plastic waste can be reduced without landfills or incinerators, which are major contributors to air pollution. Plastic waste reduction can help to protect the planet's natural habitats and support ecosystems.

Studies have shown that plastic-eating bacteria can degrade two types of plastics - polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyurethane. PET is commonly used in bottles, packaging, and textiles, while polyurethane is used in refrigeration equipment, furniture, and shoe production. The discovery of these bacteria could lead to a significant reduction in plastic waste. This technique also has the potential to reduce the amount of petroleum-based raw materials required for plastic production.

The Scale of the Problem

There is a vast expanse of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean, measuring seven times the size of Great Britain. Additionally, plastic debris pollutes beaches and overflows landfills worldwide. On a smaller scale, microplastic and nanoplastic particles have been discovered in fruits and vegetables, having infiltrated them through the plants' roots. These particles have also been detected in nearly every human organ, and astonishingly, they can even transfer from mother to child via breast milk.

The current methods of breaking down or recycling plastics are inadequate. The majority of plastic recycling involves a crushing and grinding stage, which damages and weakens the fibers that compose plastic, resulting in a lower-quality state. Unlike glass or aluminum containers that can be melted down and reformed indefinitely, the plastic in water bottles, for instance, deteriorates with each recycling cycle. A recycled plastic bottle becomes a patchy bag, which then transforms into fibrous jacket insulation, and eventually ends up as road filler, without any chance of being recycled again. Unfortunately, only a small fraction – just 9% – of plastic actually makes its way into recycling facilities.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, ‘The world is producing twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago, with the bulk of it ending up in landfill, incinerated or leaking into the environment, and only 9% successfully recycled.