There are thousands upon thousands of pounds of plastic being used around the world. In fact, Americans alone use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, and despite nationwide recycling attempts a lot of the plastic handleware ends up polluting our ocean.
In order to supply this demand, plastic bottle manufacturers are making plastic bottles at rates unseen before. With this in mind, one would expect to see all these colored bottles floating around the ocean, but scientists are actually finding less than expected.
For researchers at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, the answer is simple; oceanic microbes are evolving to biodegrade plastic. Richard Sole, who researches complex systems at the Universitat, says that while these trends cannot be explained by physical processes, it is a scientific assumption that the microbes are changing to adapt to their physical environment.
The Netherlands Institute for Sea Research agrees with the scientists in Barcelona. They have completed multiple studies on the microbes in the ocean and found that the microbes specifically attaching to the decomposing plastic are very different from those in the surrounding water. They believe that the microbes are feeding on pollutants that occur in the plastic, and evolution has made this possible.
However, some scientists disagree with this theory. According to News Scientist, Linda Amaral-Zettler of the Netherlands Institutes defends her theory and says that even if there are plastic-feasting microbes, there could be a few explanations of why the plastic isn’t noticeable on the ocean’s surface.
She says some options include:
Despite these differing opinions, one thing is for sure and that is the importance of recycling. Reuse your plastic handleware as often as you can, there is plenty of plastic jar uses that will help cut down on the ever-increasing pollution in our world’s waterways. The key to elimination is prevention, so please be conscious of your recycling habits!