Somewhat eerily, plastic waste pollution is affecting the environment in far more ways than expected, a new study shows.
Over the last 70 years or so, plastic waste has become a ubiquitous presence. It is found everywhere on earth, invading ecosystems on land, in freshwaters, and in the ocean. Now, apparently, these ecosystems are adapting. The past decades have provided sufficient evolutionary time for various microbes present in the environment to respond to these compounds. Scientists have shown in various studies that the number of enzymes that have developed the ability to degrade plastics is on the rise.
Now, using computer modelling, a team of researchers at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have found ‘multiple lines of evidence’ that this expanding number of plastic-degrading enzymes is correlated with the rising rates of plastic pollution.
The researchers recently published their findings in the scientific journal mBIO.
They analysed samples of environmental DNA from hundreds of locations around the world, using computer models to search for microbial enzymes with plastic-degrading potential, which was then cross-referenced with the official numbers for plastic waste pollution across countries and oceans.