Two young scientists Miranda Wang (Miranda Wang) and Jeanne Yao (Jeanny Yao) specially created a bacterium that can decompose plastic into simpler polymers and carbon dioxide. They were already able to raise several hundred thousand dollars for the commercialization of their development, and also became the youngest winners of the Perlman Prize. According to stillunfold, at the moment, the researchers were able to achieve the readiness of technology for industrial use, but the issue of processing speed has yet to be resolved.
As planned by the girls, one of the possible applications of their development is a floating reactor, which will patrol the ocean, collect plastic and recycle garbage in the inner tank. In the final version, one Biocellection cycle will take only a day, and only water and carbon dioxide will remain at the exit. Decomposed polymers will be partially used by the bacteria for nourishment and partially in the re-production of plastic or fuel.
In addition to artificially created microorganisms, scientists also find natural examples of the use of plastic for food. Thus, according to a recent study, bacterial films reduce the mass of plastic waste by tens of percent in less than six months, and the type of bacteria Ideonella Sakaiensis, discovered in 2016, is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate. Given the amount of garbage produced by mankind, it is possible that this is the expected natural response of the global ecosystem and its development is difficult to predict.
The biological role of plastic waste and plastic microparticles has not yet been fully studied. If large pieces of garbage can simply disrupt the vital activity of animals, for example, by blocking the digestive tract or restricting movement, then microscopic pieces of technical polymers are found in a variety of living beings, and their effect on the functioning of organisms is unknown. Studies show that people consume huge amounts of plastic annually along with food and water, as well as its particles were found even in animals living at a depth of thousands of meters under water.