Wednesday, February 21, 2024

New method could make some plastics compostable

Adding polymer-munching enzymes could make biodegradable plastics compostable, reports Science News. “Biodegradability does not equal compostability,” says Ting Xu, a polymer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. Most biodegradable plastics go to landfills, where the conditions are not right for them to break down. Ting’s team added individual enzymes to two biodegradable plastics, including polylactic acid, commonly used in food packaging. They inserted the enzymes along with another ingredient, a degradable additive Xu developed, which ensured the enzymes did not clump together and did not fall apart. The solitary enzymes grabbed the ends of the plastics’ molecular chains and ate as though they were slurping spaghetti, severing every chain link and preventing microplastic formation, writes Carmen Drahl.

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