Friday, March 11, 2016

WASTE BREAKTHROUGH: Bacteria discovered which biodegrades plastic bottles in just 6 WEEKS

SCIENTISTS have found a way to tackle the growing plastic waste problem after they discovered a bacteria that can rapidly degrade plastic bottles.

Some 50 million tons of a plastic known as polyethylene terephalate, or PET, is produced every year. It is found in many types of disposable water bottles, as well as polyester clothing, frozen-dinner containers and blister packaging.



Previously experts had found that a few select species of fungi which had the potential to break down PET but over a very long period of time.

However, a team of scientists from Japan have discovered a type of bacteria which they have dubbed Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 that has the ability to almost completely destroy a film of PET in just six weeks.

The bacterium produces two enzymes which, when used with water, can break down PET to its basic blocks.

Over 50 million tons of plastic is produced each year
However, a team of scientists from Japan have discovered a type of bacteria which they have dubbed Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 that has the ability to almost completely destroy a film of PET in just six weeks.

The bacterium produces two enzymes which, when used with water, can break down PET to its basic blocks.

Shosuke Yoshida at the Department of Biosciences and Informatics, Keio University said: "PET is used extensively worldwide in plastic products, and its accumulation in the environment has become a global concern.

"Because the ability to enzymatically degrade PET has been thought to be limited to a few fungal species, biodegradation is not yet a viable remediation or recycling strategy.”



Study co-author of the paper published in the journal Science, Kohei Oda, of the Kyoto Institute of Technology, added: “I was very surprised to find microorganisms that degrade PET, because so far, it has been said that PET is a nonbiodegradable plastic.”

Uwe Bornscheuer at Greifswald University in Germany added: "The degradation process is relatively slow; complete degradation of a small PET film took six weeks.

“Nevertheless, the discovery may have important implications for PET recycling."

Tracy Mincer, who studies plastics in the ocean at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said that if you walk into any supermarket then “you’re seeing a lot of PET”.

express

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