Plastic can biodegrade in Arctic

Plastic can biodegrade in Arctic

November 18, 2020

Scientists of the Siberian Federal University conducted a unique experiment.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Bioplastic can be used in sub-arctic latitudes without harm to the environment, as it is capable of degradation thanks to soil bacteria.

The ability of bioplastics to degrade in fragile ecosystems such as the Arctic will reduce environmental damage. This was proved by scientists from the Siberian Federal University.

Earlier, scientists from the SB RAS (Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences) Institute of Biophysics created a technology for producing special biopolymers – polyhydroxyalkanoates, which are produced by bacteria in nature under certain conditions. For that, a special culture of microorganisms is grown, in whose cells the polymer is synthesized. In nature, it can break down to carbon dioxide and water. It is extracted from cells, purified and used in the manufacture of bags, packaging and other biodegradable products.

Scientists conducted experiments on the decomposition of the material by soil microorganisms in order to reveal the characteristics of the plastic behavior in different climatic conditions. Prior to this, the ability of bacteria in fresh and salt water to process bioplastics was investigated.

“The permafrost and cold climate had an impact on the process of destruction of thin plastic, that is why the period when microorganisms are active is very short. If in tropical conditions the destruction of thin films can occur within a few weeks, but here we waited for more than a year and noticed only the beginning of the process at the molecular level”, explained Svetlana Prudnikova, professor of the basic department of biotechnology at SFU.

She noted that it is not yet clear how long it would take to fully decompose bioplastics in the Arctic. In theory, one package should take several years.

Text: Ekaterina Maximova, Photo: open sources

November 18, 2020

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