Mosquitoes were chosen as the object of study not by chance. Their life cycle goes through four stages: an egg develops into a larva, which develops into a chrysalis to become an adult. As it turned out during the observations of scientists from Tomsk University, the smallest particles of polystyrene 2 microns in size accumulate in the intestines of the larvae. To make it clear: the thickness of a human hair is from 40 to 120 microns, and the diameter of an erythrocyte (that is, blood cells of vertebrates) is 7 microns. Microplastic remains in the body as the larva turns into a pupa and then into an adult, which becomes its carrier from water to land.
The discovery by scientists from Tomsk University brings the problem of plastic recycling, a key environmental problem in the petrochemical industry, to a new level. Between 1950 and 2020, global plastic production rose from 1.5 million tons to 367 million tons, according to Statista. The turnover of used plastic reached 8.3 billion tons, of which 6.3 billion tons are waste. A number of recent innovations are designed to prevent a further increase in the mass of plastic waste. Polymateria, a British start-up, has developed a plastic that degrades into wax by adding rubber, oils and desiccants to the plastic at the manufacturing stage. Packaging made from this material decomposes in 226 days, while a plastic bag takes 1,000 years.
Another solution comes from startup Pulsar Fusion, which has created a rocket engine that runs on recycled plastic fuel. The mixture used to launch rockets is made from low density polyethylene and nitrous oxide (N2O).
In the 2020s, petrochemicals will drive crude oil demand. According to the International Energy Agency, until 2030, oil consumption in transport will grow by 0.6% per annum (excluding the fall in consumption during the pandemic), while industry and power generation will reduce it by 1.2% and 3.3% per annum. respectively. In contrast, demand for petrochemical raw materials will increase by 2.1% per annum over the same period.