Plastic-Eating Bacteria

The increased use of plastic materials over the past decade has resulted in 311 million tons of plastic waste annually. One of the most significant sources is polyethylene terephalate (PET), the material in disposable water bottles. Recently a group of Japanese scientists began to collect and analyze environmental samples from the property of a PET bottle-recycling factory. They found a new species of bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis, that was able to convert PET into terephtalic acid and ethylene glycol and digest both. This discovery is remarkable for two reasons. First, since PET was just invented in the 1940’s it shows the tremendous power of evolution. Second, it provides a potential path to address the serious problem of plastic waste.

Bacteria found to eat PET plastics could help do the recycling


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