Artificial intelligence provides solutions in the fight against plastic pollution

In the middle of this year, an encouraging study was published by a group of American scientists who developed an enzyme with the capacity to decompose plastic residues in hours

Through artificial intelligence, engineers and scientists from Texas found an urgent and necessary response to one of the major challenges of the last decade: what to do with the plastics that produce and destroy the industry. “The possibilities are infinite in all industries to take advantage of this state-of-the-art recycling process,” said Hal Alper, a professor who integrates the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas Austin.

And he highlighted: “Al considering the applications of environmental cleaning, it is necessary to have an enzyme that can function in the environment at ambient temperature. This requirement is where our technology also has a great advantage in the future.” If the news is positive, the actions that are required to limit in a radical and effective manner the pollution by plastic in the world in the next decades require coordinated and urgent global actions. According to the last audit carried out in 2022 by the global organization Alliance to End Plastic Waste, the multinationals Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestlé are in the first places of the ranking of corporations that generate the most pollution through their plastic packaging por quinto año consecutivo. En números, se recogen por año unos 3.2 million de tons de plastico residual producido por The Coca-Cola Company, colocándola por quinto consecutivo en la empresa más contaminante del mundo por envase de plastico

A pesar de este dato, the multinational was one of the principal sponsors of the climate summit COP27 recently celebrated in Egypt. Es en este marco NA conversó con Natalia Mazzei, lawyer and environmental activist, about the urgent need to reduce plastic consumption and the importance of recycling everything that is within our reach. “Es fundamental que se tomen actions a nivel global tendiente a la reducción de producción de plastic y que desde los Estados se capacite en educación environmental y fomente el consumo responsable. El plastico es un derivado del petroleum, de muy bajo costo económico y de un alto impacto ambiental y eso es un grave problema. While the world continues to be governed by countries and large industries in favor of continuing with the exploitation of fossil fuels, we will not see real change,” he detailed. En la Argentina existen dos leyes environmentales que Mazzei considera muy positivas a la hora de capacitar y educar en materia ambiental

Por un lado, está vigente la Ley Yolanda (27.592) orientada a la capacitación de funcionadores empleados públicos en temas de ambiente; y por otro la Ley de Educación Ambiental Integral (27.621), que establece el derecho a la educación ambiental Integral como una política pública nacional. “The obligation of environmental education and training of public officials is fundamental for the message and information to reach all sectors. y busquemos hacer algo de lo que está a nuestro alcance como por ejemplo, cambiar habitos de consumo”, he explained. Likewise, in October of this year, the campaign for the treatment of the Packaging Law was relaunched by the Executive Power with the support of the Argentine Federation of Cartoners, Carreros and Recicladores. that aims to find a possible solution to the problem of waste in our country

“Con esta ley se daría recognition al trabajo que vienen haciendo des hace más de años los recuperatores urbanos de nuestro país, recogiendo los materiales recicables de la vía publica y levándolo a las plantas recicladoras”, he added. The law project makes clear a key point according to Mazzei: it is about the principle of extended responsibility on the part of producers and companies that insert packaged products in the market and are responsible for the cost of recycling

At the same time, it encourages companies to manufacture packaging that is more friendly to the environment by paying an environmental tax: the more environmentally friendly the packaging, the lower the value of the tax. También existiría la opción de optar por sistemas de retorno (como gaseosas o cervezas) y no pagar. ¿Por qué se recicla tan poco en el plano individual como en el collective? “Se trata de una cuistão cultural: todava no estamos acostumrados a reciclar ni separar los residuos adequately

Nos faltó environmental education in historical terms that generate habits of recycling and management of residues. Y, además, por suposueto que reciclar es más difícil e cómodo que tirar todo en un mismo lugar”, explained the lawyer. Y added: “So, it is fundamental that we understand why we need to do it, that we know the pollution numbers, que estemos al tanto de que los micro plastics have been found not only in animals and diverse ecosystems, but also in the lungs of thousands of people and even in maternal milk.” “When you understand why it’s so important to recycle, what are sus vantageas y qué hay detrás de este cambio de habito, muchas veces se logra hacer con mayor compromiso”, remarked Mazzei. The lawyer mentions in his book “Una vida sustentable” the importance of dejar de consumir plastic

y la pregunta es ¿a qué se debe esta recommendation que, a primera vista, se trata de una instancia más radical que la opción de reciclar? “Si bien el reciclaje es un aliado clave frente al collapsado de los trashales y la contaminación plastica en el ambiente, con reciclar ya no es sufficiente. Of all the plastics produced in the last 50 years, only 9 percent was recycled. The resto se quemó, quedó en la naturaleza o se destinó a basurales”, he assured. Y precisó: “Recycling could have been a solution in the past decades when we began to produce plastic in a massive way but today it is late. Por eso apunto a que busquemos cambiar habitos de consumo consumir donde se avoid el uso de plastics y descartables de todo tipo (papeles, cartones, aluminios) y apostar a los objetos reutilizables”. “We must understand that plastic is not a problem in itself, because it is a material that has come to solve many things and probably continues to be necessary in diverse circumstances. What I propose is to stop using it in a daily way and in situations where we could avoid it “When we think that we can’t live without plastic, it’s enough to remember that our grandparents used to buy plastic books. Maybe we’ll look back, reformulate and improve old ways of consumption, and update to bring them to our present,” Mazzei said. About the study and the power of the Enzyme, the investigation centered on polyethylene terephthalate (PET), an essential polymer that we can find in most consumer plastic packaging

Desde envases de botellas de bebidas, de ensaladas y frutas, galletitas, hasta en ciertas fibras y textiles. PET makes up 12% of global waste. The monomer is a molecule that joins other molecules to conform a chain that repeats itself, that is, a polymer, but the enzymatic action achieved by scientists generates an inverse process called depolymerization, that is, it decomposes a polymer into its components moleculares originales. Por su parte, the group of researchers from the University of Texas affirmed that the enzyme is “almost miraculous” and that it was the result of a series of mutations from a type of natural enzyme called “PETase” that allows bacteria to degrade plastics. The results were very positive: not only did they demonstrate that the same enzyme could break down plastic in just 24 hours, but they also tested 50 different containers, made of the same material, in five polyester fabrics, and water bottles made with plastic PET At the moment, the work team is working on an expansion phase of the FAST-PET enzyme and in the preparation of its industrial and environmental application. LG/GAM NA

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