From research, new solutions to reduce plastic pollution

Sacchetto di plastica in mare
From new polymers able to biodegrade in a short time thanks to UV rays, to mealworms and bacteria able of digesting various types of plastic: from research into new possible solutions to reduce the impact of plastic in the world.

The current problem of plastic sees us engaged in a fight against waste and abandonment of this polyvalent material.

Currently there are numerous initiatives and projects that aim at recovery, such as River Cleaning, to prevent its release into the sea where it causes enormous damage to the ecosystem (read more here and here).

However, scientific research shows us possible future solutions for the eco-sustainable degradation of plastics.

Biodegradable plastics

University researchers have studied and produced a new polymer, able to resist intense use (the same as fishing nets) that can biodegrade thanks to ultraviolet radiation.[1]

Scientists report that, from laboratory tests, this polymer subjected to constant UV radiation, degrades within a month without leaving harmful residues.

 

Wrecking bacteria

Polyurethane is difficult to recycle or destroy safely. It also releases toxic substances into landfills.

A research team has identified bacteria, belonging to the genus Pseudomonas, as organisms capable of safely degrading this material.[2]

These microorganisms are able to metabolize compounds and degrade plastic waste in the process. These bacteria could then be used to help decompose polyurethane-based plastics for future biological recycling.

 

Plastic Eating Larvae

Mealworms are also excellent candidates for solving the plastic problem. According to a recent study, not only are they able to consume various forms of plastic, but they can also eat polystyrene containing toxic additives by degrading them.[3]

The mealworms fed in this way can also be used safely as a basis for the production of protein feed for animals without any toxicity.

 

Tarma della farina

If we sum up the initiatives and efforts to solve the plastic problem, we can finally think of a better Planet. Nevertheless, everyone must be involved and invest resources in this fundamental common goal.

[1] Bryce M. Lipinski, Lilliana S. Morris, Meredith N. Silberstein, Geoffrey W. Coates. Isotactic Poly(propylene oxide): A Photodegradable Polymer with Strain Hardening Properties. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2020; 142 (14): 6800 DOI: 10.1021/jacs.0c01768

[2] María José Cárdenas Espinosa, Andrea Colina Blanco, Tabea Schmidgall, Anna Katharina Atanasoff-Kardjalieff, Uwe Kappelmeyer, Dirk Tischler, Dietmar H. Pieper, Hermann J. Heipieper, Christian Eberlein. Toward Biorecycling: Isolation of a Soil Bacterium That Grows on a Polyurethane Oligomer and Monomer. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2020; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.00404

[3] Anja Malawi Brandon, Sahar H. El Abbadi, Uwakmfon A. Ibekwe, Yeo-Myoung Cho, Wei-Min Wu, Craig S. Criddle. Fate of Hexabromocyclodocecane (HBCD), A common Flame Retardant, In Polystyrene-Degrading Mealworms: Elevated HBCD Levels in Egested Polymer but No Bioaccumulation. Environmental Science & Technology, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b06501

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