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A novel threat to high technology
(06-09-2015, 03:04 PM)Bob Jenkins Wrote: You can't print new things cheaply without also having some way to break them down, otherwise your house fills up with things or the world fills up with garbage dumps. There's a monetary incentive to breed bacteria etc that can break down our products, whatever they are. It'll always happen, and we'll make it happen faster in the future.

Eventually everything that gets constructed will include an RFID tag or such, and an internet database will link that tag to how to deconstruct that product. Also how to construct a second copy. That solves the problem of accumulating broken junk that you don't know how to get rid of.

Plasma gasification is really effective, so there might not be as much of a need as you think.
If someone engineered a sufficiently robust bacterium or fungus that could break down some common plastics, life could be 'interesting' for a while. For instance, plastic sewer and water mains would be much less durable: perhaps equivalent to high-lignin wood. Not likely to cause the downfall of an entire civilization, but could be extremely inconvenient and expensive. If it happened quickly enough there could be outbreaks of disease due to poor sanitation until all that infrastructure could be replaced. Even the most aggressive plastic-eating 'bug' would still need water, and probably some other nutrients besides the plastic, to really chew into its materials. So in the end it could just be a matter of being a bit less cavalier about exposing plastics to moisture, and treating them more the way we treat wood at present. In the OA future, it's likely quite a few plastic-eating organisms, ranging from microbes and fungi through arthropods and on upwards through arthropods equivalent to termites or to moth larvae will have established themselves in the environment. Good for recycling, perhaps, but it would mean that carbon-based materials that are impervious to decay could be quite rare.
I doubt that any organisms based on the chemistry of Earth-life could metabolize fluoropolymers.

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