Apart from the pandemic, pollution is a massive threat to human existence. Despite growing awareness of environmental conservation, there is still a lot to be done to save the planet from harmful human activity. To this effort, scientists have developed a new biodegradable plastic that can be described as one that ‘eats itself.’
Protecting the fish
The plastic is made of materials that break down and decompose when exposed to heat or water. These plastics can be used on single-use plastic cutlery or bags, which have been a significant threat to marine life.
The scientists also believe that plastic can be used as glue in electronics for it to be easy to take them apart and reuse their parts. They also think that this will be the much sought-after solution to pollution by single-use plastics.
The currently available ‘compostable’ plastics are not really biodegradable and end up contaminating other recyclable waste. In the end, they end up in a landfill just like ordinary plastics. Dr. Ting Xu, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says that people are now ready to start using biodegradable single-use plastics. She, however, adds that if these plastics bring more demerits than benefits, then the policy will likely be reverted.
According to the researchers, plastics can be applied anywhere in theory. This means that they could make biodegradable plastic food containers and plastic bags, which are currently made of polythene, one of the biggest threats to the environment.
Reusing the plastics
Professor Xu adds that what remains now is to make the plastics firmer and more durable. If this happens, the plastics can be more than compost after use and recycled into reusable plastics.
Xu and her team have been working on this for several years. In 2018, she displayed how using nanoscopic polymer-consuming enzymes can strengthen the plastics’ materials and keep them intact until the right conditions to break them down are reached.