Decomposition of plastic or rather the time taken for it is a major environmental headache. However the process has been accomplished in just under three months by a 16-year-old Waterloo Collegiate Institute student.
Daniel Burd, as part of a science fair project, figured out bacteria that break down the polymers in plastic bags - compounds that can last for over 1,000 years - in about three months.
For his revolutionary discovery, Burd mixed landfill dirt with yeast and tap water, then added ground plastic and let it stew.
He found that the plastic indeed decomposed more quickly than it would in nature, reports Wired News.
After experimenting with different temperatures and configurations, Burd isolated the microbial munchers. One came from the bacterial genus Pseudomonas, and the other from the genus Sphingomonas.
Burd says that the process of polyethylene degradation developed in this project can be used on an industrial scale for biodegradation of plastic bags.
According to him, all that's needed is a fermenter, a growth medium and plastic, and the bacteria themselves provide most of the energy by producing heat as they eat.