Read the full story from Smithsonian Magazine.
Some single-use plastics have been replaced with biodegradable options in recent years, but even those aren’t fully compostable. Polymer scientist Ting Xu knows that because when she picks up composted soil from her parents’ garden, it is often littered with plastic bits that haven’t fully degraded, she tells Carmen Drahl at Science News.
For more than a decade, Xu has researched how plastic could be created with enzymes that break down the stubborn material. Now, a paper published on April 21 in the journal Nature describes a new plastic material that degrades by up to 98 percent after less than a week in damp composting soil. The plastic itself has a sprinkling of polymer-munching enzymes mixed in that are activated by heat and moisture to degrade the plastic from the inside.