Today on World Earth Day, I have some piece of information that may seem shocking. There are a billion microorganisms present around us every day. Some that we have accidently ingested, some that are just present on our body. But not once have I ever thought of these notorious things to be capable of converting plastic waste to sustainable food. Yes, you read that correct.
Microbial communities have been shown to have the ability to break down certain types of plastic waste, but the idea of turning plastic waste into sustainable food is not currently feasible. Plastic waste is a major environmental problem, with millions of tons of plastic ending up in our oceans and landfills each year. Traditional methods of plastic disposal, such as incineration and landfilling, are not sustainable and can have negative environmental impacts. This has led researchers to explore the potential of microbial communities to break down plastic waste and convert it into usable materials.
Biodegradation is the process by which microorganisms break down complex organic molecules, including plastic, into simpler compounds that can be used as a nutrient source. Microbial communities, consisting of a diverse group of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, have been shown to be able to break down certain types of plastic waste through biodegradation. One example of a plastic that can be broken down by microbial communities is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is commonly used in plastic bottles. Researchers have identified a strain of bacteria called Ideonella sakaiensis that is capable of breaking down PET into its constituent parts, including terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, which can then be used as raw materials to create new plastics.
However, the process of biodegradation is typically slow and requires specific conditions, such as the presence of oxygen and the right temperature and pH. It is also not yet clear whether the breakdown products of plastic biodegradation are safe for human or animal consumption. Furthermore, even if plastic waste could be broken down by microbial communities into some form of organic matter that could be used as a nutrient source for crops or livestock, there are concerns about the safety and sustainability of using plastic waste as a food source. Plastic waste often contains harmful chemicals and pollutants that could be harmful to both human and animal health.
Therefore, while microbial communities may have the potential to help address the problem of plastic waste, there are currently no known methods for directly turning plastic waste into sustainable food using microbial communities. Instead, efforts to reduce plastic waste should focus on reducing consumption, increasing recycling, and developing alternative materials that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Even though this entire idea is still stuck on the testing phase, there seems to be a bright future when it comes to the food industry and possible alternative resources.