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Chemists in India are lacing plastics with sugar to make them palatable to soil bacteria. The modified plastics start to biodegrade within days, compared to standard plastics which survive for decades in landfills.

Digambar Gokhale and colleagues at the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune mixed the styrene units of polystyrene with 'chemical hook' that allowed them to add sucrose or glucose pieces to the plastic. Certain types of bacteria break open the bonds between these chemicals when they consume the sugars, kicking off the decay process

It remains to be seen, however, whether the polymer biodegrades into entirely non-toxic substances. Adding the sugar would also require significant manufacturing changes, which could be costly.

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