Discovered Plastic Eating Bacteria


A team of scientists in Japan has identified a species of plastic-eating bacteria, isolated from outside a bottle-recycling facility, a finding that might help solve the growing plastic pollution problem.

The newly discovered microbes love to feed on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics.
According to a report published in Journal Science on March 10, 2016, it has been confirmed that a group of researchers in Japan have discovered a microbe that is astonishingly good at eating PET bottles.
Researchers believe that wise use of this bacteria will help to find a solution in destroying plastic waste that all around ocean like massive islands of garbage. Fungi is also known for breaking down PET, and now this new microbe is also found effective in doing the same.
 PET bottles have a very durable plastic, and they are considered to be very hazardous to our planet as it is very much resistant to break down..

Kohei Oda, co-author and applied microbiologist in Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan stated that this newly discovered microbe has the diagnostic capability to degrade PET entirely to Carbon Dioxide and Water. The new pet is being named Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, and it can degrade PET in six weeks, at a temperature of 30 degrees Celcius.

The biochemical analysis confirms that two key enzymes are involved in the breakdown of PET. Out of the two, one enzyme works with water to break down plastic to an intermediate substance, while the others convert PET into basic building blocks.
While plastic bottles need between 450 years and 1000 years to biodegrade, PET plastic bottles never degrade. Researchers believe that the appetite for plastic was acquired as environment has become increasingly crowded with plastic in the last 70 years.

The team speculates that because the bacteria had only one source of food they had to either adapt or die. So, they developed special enzymes that can digest even the toughest plastic.

Still, the bacteria had a harder time in munching on PET plastic which is commonly used to produce plastic bottles. Researchers believe that with a few weeks the bacteria could soon be used in massive clean-up operations and industrial recycling.

More than 30 percent of world’s plastics are discarded in the environment, while 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year. About one-sixth of global plastics are PET plastics.



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