A New Kind of Microbe Can Digest PET


PET or durable plastic is commonly found in human-made waste and it is considered as a serious environmental hazard. PET is not only durable, it also refuses to break down in nature. However, scientists have now turned to the Mother Nature to eradicate the tough plastic.

A team in Japan has recently discovered a species of microbe that ravenously eats PET-based objects. Across the world, it is estimated that nearly 350 million tons of plastic is discarded and only about 15 percent is recycled. Nearly all types of plastic degrade extremely slowly, but polyethylene terephthalate or PET is one of the most durable. In 2013, the worldwide industrial facilities produced about 61 tons of PET. A source of hope for this situation was a rare fungi and it could break down PET. Now, a bacterium is also able to biodegrade the enduring type of plastic.

Kohei Oda is a microbiologist from the Kyoto Instirute of Technology and he discovered a strain that can degrade PET. Unfortunately, the process is not completely clean, because PET will be decomposed into water and CO2. However, in a controlled facility, the CO2 can be collected for various purposes, such as for growing oil-rich algae in biodiesel production. The bacteria species is scientifically named Ideonella Sakaiensis strain 201-F6. In an experiment, a thin PET film is broken down completely at 86 degrees temperature after 42 days. Two types of enzyme have been detected during the breakdown process. It is currently not known how the bacterium will be used for removing PET in the nature. It may or may not have sufficient durability to thrive in open areas.

Written by Zezom.com News Staff.

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