While we rightly condemn unsustainable dumping of plastic waste, plastics have immutably become a part of modern living. With commercial use starting in the early 1900s, plastics have been used to develop everything from textiles and home-products to airplanes. In fact, they are also a major part of the nanotech ecosystem and are increasingly being used in chips, phones and solar cells. But, their development has not come without a cost. Increasingly, ocean beds are becoming laden with these compounds which are difficult to degrade.
But, now, scientists at MIT have discovered a bacterial enzyme, which can help create more bio-degradable plastics. Scientists have been working on the enzyme for long, but this is the first time that they have been able to isolate and crystallise it. The new enzyme can provide for formation of both hard or soft plastics. Besides, these can easily replace the plastics available. Though some biodegradable plastics are already available, these have not proved to be too effective in combating pollution and waste problems, as they do not degrade fast enough. In fact, a UN report earlier this year highlighted that these biodegradable plastics can only be disposed off in an industrial composter rather than in an ocean. The problem may be solved by the new formulation as it may take less time to degrade.