Plastic-eating is the latest identified skill of a high-tech bacteria mixture. The concoction reportedly gobbles up plastics—and may soon be ready to take on other toxic materials. Get ready for the bacteria that ate the milk jug.
Humans generate more than 300 million tons of plastic waste every year. But only a fraction of the synthetic bottles, bags, and containers get recycled.
Hungary-based biotech company Poliloop seeks to provide an answer to the global plastics pollution problem. The company’s solution involves mimicking creation. When an organism dies, God-made bacteria and fungi begin breaking it down, or decomposing it. Wood, plant matter, carcasses—the decomp process can be messy.
But death and decay aren’t the ultimate end of a living being. Decomposing matter aids farmers by nourishing soil, preserving tree health, feeding other animals, converting into fuel, and more. Science recognizes death is also a beginning. Christians recognize human death is the start of life eternal. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
Poliloop’s website says the company’s mission involves “using the once-polluting plastic waste as a carbon-rich food source” for bacteria. The bacteria eat the plastic and then produce “a valuable end-product” to “integrate into a global circular ecosystem.”
To get rid of plastic quick, Poliloop concocted a particular bacteria mixture. Biochemists Liz Madaras and Krisztina Lévay say the solution speeds up chemical reactions in the plastic material and consumes many forms of plastic. The noshing process happens quickly—usually in about seven weeks.
The bacteria “can actually bring plastics back into the natural life cycle to which they once belonged,” Madaras says.
Other scientists have already made a plastic-eating enzyme. It digests one common form of plastic packaging referred to by the acronym PET. But Poliloop’s so-called “cocktail” can decompose seven types of plastic. The enzyme’s decaying process converts plastic into fragments in two weeks. At the end of seven weeks, the plastic is nothing more than liquid “sludge.”
How remarkable of our Creator to foresee humans’ messes—and create bacteria that can even live off litter!
Early lab tests show the slop may be safe to use in soil. “If it works on a large scale, it can make a global impact because the problem with plastics up until now was that they lingered on in the environment forever,” Madaras says. “But once we can biodegrade them, . . . they become part of nature again.”
Poliloop plans to build a large plant. The plant will allow researchers to experiment to figure out whether their mixture can digest other pollutants.