We are helping find solutions to plastic problem 

Published April 1, 2019, 12:36 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON Feb 03, 2019The  problem  with plastics is that most  of it  is non-biodegradable.  Unlike natural  materials like wood,   paper,  cloth, and leather, it  doesn’t  break down into  component  molecules  after a time.  Some scientists say it may take 450 years  — some say never — to break down the plastics we have in the world  today.

Since plastic was invented in the late 19th century and production took off in the 1950s, 9.2 million  tons  of plastics have gone into production  and 6.9 billion tons have become waste that grows by millions  of tons every year. Between 5.3 million and 14 million tons a  year  are dumped  mostly on coastal regions, thence into the sea.  It stays there year after year, a lot of it ending in the stomachs of sea animals who then die from internal injuries.

One study has  identified the Philippines as the No. 3  source  of plastic wastes in the world’s oceans,  next  to China and Indonesia. We  are  among the world’s top users of such plastic products as food wrappers, bags, sachets for medicine, bottles, stirrers and straws for drinks.

In the worldwide search for solutions to the plastic problem, however, the Philippines  has  come up with its own contributions. A factory  in Las Pinas today recycles “soft plastics” such as food wrappers  into chairs which  the Villar Social Institute  for Poverty Alleviation  is donating to public schools. Eco-bricks, building blocks made from used plastic, are now being produced  by Green Antz Builders for housing.  San Miguel Corporation  is now  building  roads out of recycled plastics. If the technology proves  effective and meets all safety and quality requirements, the company said it may roll it out for large infrastructure products.

Last week,  researchers of the biology department  of  the University of  the Philippines Baguio  were reported  to have discovered  four strains of bacteria capable of biodegrading Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) which is used to produce plastic  bags,  bottles, and wrappers. The bacterial strains had been collected  from  rock  crevices  in the Poon Bato spring in Botolan,  Zambales. The researchers  called for continuing research into other polymer-degrading  microorganisms.

Similar researches and studies are now being conducted in other countries on this worldwide problem of  plastic  wastes. The Philippines  may have  gained  some notoriety as  the No. 3  source of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans  today, but it is good to know  that  we  are making our contribution   to the search for solutions  — through innovative ways to recycle plastic waste into useful articles such as chairs and road  paving materials.

The research at UP Baguio may  also  lead to ways to make plastics  biodegradable like all other  materials in our world today,  so it will one day it will cease be a problem  and a danger  especially to life in the world’s oceans.

 
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