It is tempting to demonize plastics, however realistically, plastics themselves don't seem to be inherently evil. Plastics make life better, and easier, for us. for instance, one amongst the first stuff you use every morning and one of the last things you use nightly - your toothbrush - is made of plastics. Whenever you visit your grocery store, you meet several styles of plastics that function as packaging to prolong the freshness of foods, and in a hospital, a range of plastics help prolong your life.
In fact, it's the immortality of plastics has inspired some enterprising researchers to start thinking “outside of the box” to develop innovations to re-purpose already existing plastics, maybe to even cut back the consequences of global climate change. How?
The key lies within the chemical structure of plastics. Plastics are manufactured from long chains -- polymers -- of carbon molecules, like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Methane gas may be a molecule in cow farts that's eighty times more powerful than carbon dioxide for causing climate change. Carbon dioxide gas is made by burning natural things, like gas, oil, wood or plastics, and for this reason, we have a tendency to manufacture way more carbon dioxide than methane, therefore the cumulative effects of all that carbon dioxide are more bigger than those of methane gas. Basically, if we could permanently take away some of carbon dioxide or CH4 gases from the atmosphere by sequestering them into plastics, we'd effectively be preventing these gases from causing more harm to the climate.
One such enterprising company, Mango Materials, a small start-up in California, is functioning to cut back the methane gas problem in wastewater treatment plants by harnessing the power of specific microbes to capture methane and stick them together to form polymers that then may be factory-made into larger and a lot of helpful items of plastic.
Another company, that was listed included in Forbes’s 2018 “30 under 30” list in producing and industry, is Filabot. This company converts already existing plastics, like water bottles, into plastic filaments that are utilized by 3D printers. This repurposes plastic waste into different helpful forms rather than marketing it into the ocean, or incinerating it, which then liberates carbon dioxide into the atmosphere where it will contribute to global climate change.
Mother Nature herself has a range of clever innovations that we are solely starting to discover and to understand. For instance, there's proof that a minimum of some animals, like caterpillars, manage to supply homes to their own special collection of gut microbes that may biodegrade a minimum of some types traditionally non-biodegradable plastics -- a discovery that might result in innovations in truly recycling plastics. And simply last week, a paper was revealed that discusses how a group of Japanese scientists developed a “mutant enzyme” that may degrade the traditionally non-biodegradable plastic, PET, that comprises plastic water bottles. This “mutant enzyme” is 200th a lot more efficient than its original kind, made by the microbe, Ideonellasakaiensis 201-F6.
Hopefully these new innovations and discoveries can inspire yet more inventive thinkers to harness the power of their imaginations, maybe assisted by huge armies of microbes, therefore we will re-purpose apparently immortal plastics into different helpful forms -- perhaps even many a lot of rubber duckies -- while preventing the escape of damaging carbon dioxide and CH4 into the atmosphere.