The Threat of Plastic on Our World


On June 5, 2018, volunteers help to clean up beaches in Lima, Peru

Adela Storey, Staff Writer

Plastic is, by definition, “a synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers”, and this synthetic material is beginning to ruin our planet. Since plastic was invented, researchers estimate that 8.3 billion tons of it has been created and used. The production of plastics requires the use of oils and natural gas, which are currently contributing to the ongoing problem of global warming.

Some ask why plastic isn’t just recycled and broken down, but they have yet to learn that 91 percent of all plastics produced are not able to be recycled, and plastic takes roughly 500-1,000 years to completely dissolve into the soil on its own. The reason that plastic takes hundreds of years to break down is due to the complicated chemical makeup of these products, which means they cannot easily decay. This is good for consumers, but bad for the environment once the products are discarded.

Scientists believe they might have a solution to this problem: a bacterium called Ideonella sakaiensis. This microorganism was found around an industrial site near a bottle-recycling plant in Sakai, Japan, where many common plastics were left to degrade. Ideonella sakaiensis is able to eat these plastics and turn them into useable energy, something that humans never expected to happen.

In the bottle-recycling plant the organisms thrived, and scientists have decided that microorganisms like this one may be the solution to plastic landfill. They plan to genetically modify these creatures to target common plastics to break down in order to decrease the amount of plastic found in landfills, large bodies of waters and public areas. Researchers and scientists have also talked about producing extra enzymes to break down plastic in labs that will later be introduced to these organisms to speed up breakdown.

Although this solution seems like it’ll work fantastically, the population still needs to step forward to help clean the planet. Global warming and the overwhelming plastic production are becoming big problems for our world, so it would be best not to ignore what is happening.