According to a recent study, global plastic pollution is causing our planet’s ability to adapt. This includes growing microorganisms which can reduce the accumulation of waste. Researchers have discovered living organisms that can reduce 10 kinds of plastic.
The study by the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology reveals that plastic-degrading enzymes produced on both land and oceans is increasing in number and diversity. Researchers have discovered over 30,000 enzyme homologues – members of protein sequences sharing similar properties – that live all around the planet and have the potential to degrade the 10 types of plastic most widely used by humans.
Researchers discovered that around 12,000 of these organisms could be found in the sea and 18,000 were in soil. They also revealed that their habitats are linked to local levels plastic pollution. The highest amounts of plastic-degrading bugs were discovered in “Notoriously polluted regions,” including the South Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
“It was unexpected to see so many of these species in such diverse environments. It is an amazing discovery, which really highlights the magnitude of the problem.,” the study’s first author, Jan Zrimec, said.
Although it was known previously that certain enzymes could digest plastic, researchers now think the environment may be evolving in order to increase these organisms. This is due to the 380 million tonnes of plastic being produced each year. The latest findings represent “This is a great example of the way the environment responds to the demands we place on it,” according to a researcher from the Chalmers University of Technology, associate professor Aleksej Zelezniak.
Scientists believe that more analysis of environmental DNA with plastic-degrading capabilities may be possible to help manage the crisis. These microorganisms hold “It has great potential to transform the global management of plastic waste,” the study claims. Its authors now want to test “The most promising enzyme candidates” in the lab, and identify those that can be used in novel recycling processes to speed up very slow plastic degradation. “This allows you to engineer targeted degrading activities for polymer type specific microbial communities,” Zelezniak explained.