When asked about the biggest contribution of today's generation to the world, what does first come to mind? Self driving cars? The internet? Gene editing? Well, if you ask me, our biggest "contribution" would probably be plastic- huge chunks of it floating in the ocean.
But don't you know that while we make so much plastic in a year, scientists say there is actually only a little amount (compared to what we make) of it floating on our waters?
And one of its reasons is explained in a study found in the preprint server for biology, bioRxiv
. What is the study about? Well, nothing much, just a new species of bacteria that breaks plastic down
. "Although the presence of vast amounts of plastic in the open ocean has generated great concern due to its potential ecological consequences, recent studies reveal that its measured abundance is much smaller than expected," the researchers wrote in their paper.
You heard it right, new species of bacteria is found to break the molecular bonds of polyethylene terephthalate or PET, one of the common forms of plastic used in plastic bottles and some polyesters for fabrics, and uses it as a food source. Need I say more? While PET takes so long in dissolving back to the world (around 450 years), the bacteria breaks it down easily in just six weeks! With this findings, researchers from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona theorized that the lack of plastic floating in the ocean could be due to these bacteria's mechanism.
However, this doesn't mean that we should keep throwing plastic in the ocean, alright? There is still the fact that some animals like fish and turtles can eat those nasty plastics. There's also the fact that some of these plastics just sunk down to the ocean bed. Also, PET is just one plastic type and there are a lot more others that these bacteria can't break down. This doesn't change the fact that plastic is harmful to the world's entirety and this doesn't change the need for us to avoid (or even completely stop) using it.