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A bacterium solving our plastic pollution problem?

The plastic problem is not new for us. The harmful implications of petroleum-based plastic is mind wobbling, the effects of which can be seen all around us. Nevertheless, a report published by the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) revealed a bacterium that is not only able to degrade difficult-to-recycle petroleum-based plastics but which can also sustainably produce more environmentally-friendly biodegradable plastics.

PET which stands for poly ethylene terephthalate, is petroleum based plastic. These are extensively used in plastic bottles, food wrappers and textiles. The environmental impacts are continuously boiling our planet and due to continuous usage, these are harming wildlife and human health is being constantly threatened.

Senior researcher Shosuke Yoshide, explains that the bacterium is called Idenella Sakaiensis. It converts PET into poly 3-hydroxybutrate (PHB), a type of poly hydroxyalkanoate (PHA) plastic that is biodegradable cells grown on PET accumulated intracellular PHA at high levels. Collectively, their findings in this study demonstrate that I.Sakaiensis can mediate the direct conversion of non-biodegradable PET into environment-friendly plastic, providing a new approach for PET recycling.

The overwhelming reliance on plastics means that despite the reductions in the production of single-use plastics, it will be difficult to stop using plastic altogether. Therefore, alternative ways to reduce persistent plastics from the environment offers a promising alternative as it tackles two sustainability-related issues. These are the degrading of persistent petroleum-based plastics while producing biodegradable plastics. Reducing the pollution caused by plastic waste is a significant step in the right direction and the overwhelming results developed by new methodology sets revolutionary foundations towards a better future.


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