Since the demand for t-shirts and tank tops made from recycled PET water bottles hasn’t hit a highwater mark, there’s another encouraging solution to those billions and billions of water bottles omnipresent in the world.
Somewhat by accident, a group of scientists in Japan discovered a previously unknown bacteria that seems to devour plastic water bottles. That’s right, the same noisy PET water bottles that are ubiquitous in our lives have voracious fans.
This bacteria, which was first found in soil adjacent to a plastic bottle recycling plant in Japan, and later in a landfill in Pakistan, and then Houston, seems to feast on the plastic and break it down into its original plastic polymers. Meaning new water bottles could be made from it instead of diverting millions of barrels of crude to produce these disposable water containers.
For those Bostonians, like me, who have sat in one of the 34,000 seats at Fenway, looking out at the Green Monster between pitches, it’s been said that we throw away enough single use water bottles to fill Fenway Ball Park every two weeks. As a colleague of mine, who overseas a local chapter of Keep America Beautiful, says “No excuse for single use.”
“Cambridge Consultants, an engineering and product development company, plan to use synthetic biology to manufacture a similar plastic-eating enzyme. It could later be used in recycling plants or in the environment—and potentially even in the ocean, where as much as 12.7 million metric tons of plastic ends up every year.”
“The team has explored ways to make plastic biologically instead of from petrochemicals. But it also realized that it could use biology to begin breaking down some of the billions of tons of plastic that have landed in landfills and the environment, where it can take hundreds of years—or perhaps longer—to fully break down. A 2017 study estimated that of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic that humans had produced since the material was invented, around 6.3 billion tons ended up as waste; only 9% was recycled.”