The GuardianThe Guardian

How ‘super-enzymes’ that eat plastics could curb our waste problem

By Michael Marshall

05 Feb 2022 · 8 min read

Beaches littered with plastic bottles and wrappers. Marine turtles, their stomachs filled with fragments of plastic. Plastic fishing nets dumped at sea where they can throttle unsuspecting animals. And far out in the Pacific Ocean, an expanse of water more than twice the size of France littered with plastic waste weighing at least 79,000 tonnes.

The plastic pollution problem is distressingly familiar, but many organisations are working to reduce it. Alongside familiar solutions such as recycling, a surprising ally has emerged: micro-organisms. A handful of microbes have evolved the ability to “eat” certain plastics, breaking them down into their component molecules. These tiny organisms could soon play a key role in reducing plastic waste and building a greener economy.

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