Last year, wanting to reduce pollution in her home city of Istanbul, Elif manufactured a new environmentally-friendly bioplastic that uses banana peels - an organic material - instead of traditional petroleum sources.

This is potentially an important leap forward as, according to the U.S National Park Service, it takes a plastic bottle 450 years to decompose in the environment. Yes, that’s 450 years. That means that, if Shakespeare had a bottle of soda pop, that soda bottle would still be around…and it would remain for at least another 50 years.

Why does this process take so long? It’s really rather simple.

First, there are two kinds of decomposition, abiotic and biotic. Abiotic decomposition is when material is broken down as a result of a chemical or physical process (like wind or water erosion). Biotic decomposition is when material is broken down by living organisms (usually, this is accomplished by microorganisms).

Now then, in plastics, atoms are linked to one another in more complicated ways than ordinary. As a result, bacteria can’t decompose plastics because they can’t break the links. Slower processes can break plastics down, but these processes can take decades or even centuries to do the job (depending on where the object is, like in a garbage dump or in the sea). And in fact, many scientists believe that certain plastics never truly decompose.

But many people, like Elif, and working to combat the troubling ramifications of our plastic use. Learn about this invention in the video below.

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