Plastic has long been the bane of the environment, piling up in oceans and landfills. We now know that, when exposed to the elements, plastic releases methane and ethylene, two greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate change, according to new research by the University of Hawaii. There are efforts to mitigate plastic’s ills, however. Last year, researchers at the University of Portsmouth accidentally discovered a plastic-eating enzyme that could help break down larger pieces of plastic and aid in recycling efforts. French biotech company Carbios will produce a new generation of plastics for bottles, packaging, and film that include enzymes to trigger biodegradation after use. Recycling Technologies, based in the UK, hopes to turn traditionally unrecyclable plastics into “plaxx,” or plastic, wax, and oils. Meanwhile, corporations are stepping up: Origin Materials will make “plastic” bottles from sawdust and cardboard. Evian has promised to use recycled plastic in all its water bottles by 2025. Starbucks pledged to eliminate plastic straws in 2020. British supermarket Morrisons will bring back traditional brown paper bags for loose fruit and vegetables, and a number of cities have banned plastic bags at grocery stores.
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