“New Plastic-Munching Bacteria Could Fuel a Recycling Revolution” Mark Lorch, The Conversation, 10 March 2016

The PET-digesting enzymes offer a way to truly recycle plastic. They could be added to vats of waste, breaking all the bottles or other plastic items down into into easy-to-handle chemicals. These could then be used to make fresh plastics, producing a true recycling system.

Plastic has fantastic properties for use which is why we produce tons of it every year. When plastic is discarded however, much of it ends up back in the environment as pollution. Plastics are polymers, which are very long carbon molecules. As long as plastic is mainly made by carbon, in theory it should be a good source of food for microorganisms. Despite this, most plastics are not biodegradable. Since plastic has only existed for about seventy years it is reasonable to think bacterias has not evolved enough to feed off plastics. However, a Kyoto University group has isolated a bacteria which can live in PET (one of the most used plastics, which is usually found in plastic bottles). This discovery has been made before, with the main difference being that it was much easier to grow for the Kyoto University group and the discovery of the identification of the enzymes which are used in the process. This opens the door to a new way to recycle. Using enzymes to break the plastic into easy-to-handle chemicals which can be used to create fresh plastic, for example. A similar method is used for biological washing powders, making us one step closer to doing so with plastic.

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“New Plastic-Munching Bacteria Could Fuel a Recycling Revolution” Mark Lorch, The Conversation, 10 March 2016

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