Biodegradable plastics have existed for several years now and have been marketed as a means to fight the global plastic waste crisis. But even in the best cases, the process of degrading this plastic can be incredibly slow. It would take a typical water bottle 2-3 years to biodegrade in a landfill. In some cases, they even accelerate the formation of microplastics. So what if we had more control over the degradation process and could speed it up?
An award-winning scientist, Ting Xu is a Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering at Berkeley University in California. Xu has found a ground-breaking way of improving the biodegradation by harnessing the power of biology: Through the use of enzyme-embedded polymers, she can create triggers that determine when, where and how polymers degrade. At Falling Walls, Xu explains how the process works and how the production method is applied, so that the same water bottle could be broken down in only 5-6 weeks.