April 27, 2021

Biodegradable Plastic is Finally Here

Plastic pollution has been a long-term headache for groups concerned about the planet and its precious environments, but scientists at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, have come up with a new type of plastic that can break down more quickly than regular kinds.

Recent stats estimate that only 9% of plastic in the world is actively recycled, while the rest ends up in landfills. Most are made from polymers – synthetically-made large molecules – such as polylactic acid and polycaprolactone.

Now, the UC team has developed plastic with built-in enzymes that chew the polymers down to non-toxic molecules without leaving behind any of the harmful aforementioned micro particles – and all this is possible within a few days in a home compost.

Professor Ting Xu and her team added a little tap water to the decomposing plastics and soon, 98% of the materials in the compost were reduced to their harmless, individual molecules, which act like a food source for the soil microbes.

Professor Xu said: “We want to work with industry to really move this forward, so that it’s in the grocery store and on your countertop.”

The future of plastics is looking increasingly environmentally friendly.

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