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Published: September 30, 2023

On the Horizon - Bacteria Eating Plastic

"Current methods of breaking down or recycling plastics are woefully inadequate. The vast majority of plastic recycling involves a crushing and grinding stage, which frays and snaps the fibres that make up plastic, leaving them in a lower-quality state. While a glass or aluminium container can be melted down and reformed an unlimited number of times, the smooth plastic of a water bottle, say, degrades every time it is recycled. A recycled plastic bottle becomes a mottled bag, which becomes fibrous jacket insulation, which then becomes road filler, never to be recycled again. And that is the best case scenario. In reality, hardly any plastic – just 9% – ever enters a recycling plant. The sole permanent way we’ve found to dispose of plastic is incineration, which is the fate of nearly 70 million tonnes of plastic every year – but incineration drives the climate crisis by releasing the carbon in the plastic into the air, as well as any noxious chemicals it might be mixed with."

Read more about the science and opportunity in The Guardian

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