Plastic-eating bugs are teaching scientists how to recycle. It’s no secret that the plastic problem is tough to tackle — only 9% of plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. If pollution continues at this rate, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
But, the Guardian reports that scientists discovered microbes in soils and oceans across the world that have evolved to eat plastic. The first bug with these natural recycling abilities was discovered in a dump in Japan in 2016. Scientists began studying how the organism evolved and, in the process, accidentally created an enzyme that had even better plastic degradation skills. In 2020, additional experimentation increased the speed of degradation sixfold.