The Green Medium is an Emerald Award-winning, youth-run blog that seeks to innovate how we discuss and inform ourselves on environmental concerns.

Plastic

It is well known that plastic takes a lot of time to decompose - about an average of 450 years, but it can go up to 1000 years to biodegrade. There is so much plastic on the ocean that it is expected by 2050, plastic waste in the oceans outweigh fish. As everyone knows, this is harmful to life on Earth. An example are the turtles. Turtles that consume plastic, either directly or via contaminated prey, become too buoyant, struggling to dive to reach food. The effect, known as "floater syndrome", is just one of the ways plastics are endangering sea turtles (video below).

Lucky for us, researchers have found a bacteria that has developed an appetite for this polymer. The bacteria, named Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, has the ability to break down a thin film of PET (polyethylene terephthalate; about a sixth of the trash is made of this highly durable plastic) within six weeks at a temperature of 30ºC (86ºF). Using two different enzymes, the bacteria breaks down the PET into terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, two chemicals that are harmless to the environment.

This could be a start to biodegrade plastic. If we've found a bacteria that breaks down a type of plastic, imagine how many more bacteria like this are out there. But of course, this is no excuse to throw our plastic into the environment. This is the first step to the actually breakdown of plastic in the environment. Here's a video about what happens to plastics thrown away:

For more information about the floater syndrome, go to the following link: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/turtles-get-floater-syndrome-plastics-and-cant-dive

For more information about the Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, go to the following link: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/scientists-discover-bacteria-which-can-eat-pet-plastic

Happy Earth Day!

The Future