Zero Waste News: How Nature is Informing Scientific Waste Solutions
It was Earth Day on the 22nd and seeing so many posts and stories celebrating our miraculous planet brought to mind just how incredibly good the Earth is at managing all its natural processes in perfectly closed loops.
As our consumption and waste generation ramped over the last few decades, we have far outstripped its ability to maintain that exquisite balance. Now, faced with a man-made climate and waste crisis we’re scrambling for solutions and finally, looking to nature to inform how best to handle the disaster we have created.
Today, we’re looking at some of the ways nature is helping us learn new ways to combat waste, especially plastic:
Pestalotiopsis microspora – Edible, Plastic Eating, Mushrooms
Scientists from Yale University have discovered a mushroom in the Amazon Rainforest that can eat plastic as it’s a sole food source. The mushrooms break down and consume the plastic, in anaerobic conditions, while growing into an edible mushroom suitable for human consumption. This incredible discovery opens doors for bioremediation projects, where large volumes of Polyurethane can be broken down and transformed into a food source!
Enzyme-activated Compostable Plastic Could Diminish Microplastics Pollution
Compostable plastics, especially the most common Polylactic Acid or PLA plastics, pose significant challenges – they’re very difficult to compost without highly specific conditions only found in dedicated facilities and when they do break down, they result in microplastics that also pose a huge challenge. A new enzyme-activated compostable plastic can be broken down to its building blocks (monomers) and then reformed into a new compostable plastic product. The enzymes are embedded in the plastic and then activated using water or home composting conditions – exactly the way enzymes work in nature!
Biology and Engineering - Microbes the Key to An Infinitely Recyclable, Compostable Plastic
Infinitely recyclable and compostable plastic is the ‘holy grail’ of plastics – and it is finally here! Multidisciplinary insight and expertise from the Keasling Lab and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created biologically based plastic that is both compostable AND infinitely recyclable. The properties of the plastic are equivalent to traditional plastics and it is cheap and quick to produce – making it the first viable alternative to plastics as we know them. Once again, nature held the key to a solution that could change the world!
There are so many ways to support the earth by making conscious choices to reduce your waste and support natural processes for a healthier, cleaner planet. These guides will help you make those choices:
That’s it for today.
How has the Earth inspired you? What changes are you making to help it help us? 😊 Share your experiences with us by replying to this email – we love hearing from you!
Liza and Johanna