Bacteria that can eat plastic

More than 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year, and despite greater emphasis on recycling programs, much of it gets dumped in landfills and oceans around the world. The U.S., for example, only recycles about 14 percent of the nearly 33 million tons of plastic containers and packaging that winds up in American landfills every year. Now Japanese researchers are debuting what could be a tiny solution to the big plastic problem. Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 is a bacteria that eats PET, a polymer commonly used in plastics that’s nearly impossible to biodegrade. (You can see the full study in the March 11 edition of Science.) When placed on PET, I. sakaiensis attaches to the polymer and degrades it into into an intermediate substance called mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid—MHET for short. From there, a second enzyme breaks the MHET into the two basic building blocks of PET.

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Bacteria that can eat plastic

More than 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year, and despite greater emphasis on recycling programs, much of it gets dumped in landfills and oceans around the world. The U.S., for example, only recycles about 14 percent of the nearly 33 million tons of plastic containers and packaging that winds up in American landfills every year. Now Japanese researchers are debuting what could be a tiny solution to the big plastic problem. Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 is a bacteria that eats PET, a polymer commonly used in plastics that’s nearly impossible to biodegrade. (You can see the full study in the March 11 edition of Science.) When placed on PET, I. sakaiensis attaches to the polymer and degrades it into into an intermediate substance called mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid—MHET for short. From there, a second enzyme breaks the MHET into the two basic building blocks of PET.

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