Bacteria that decompose PET plastic

We all know that plastic waste is a huge problem — about 32 million tons of the stuff enter our landfills each year. Plastic is also polluting our oceans. Most of this plastic is not biodegradable.

In a breakthrough that may help us make huge strides towards remedying the world’s plastic problem, a team of researchers at Kyoto University has isolated a bacteria that feeds on polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

While fungi that eat plastic have been previously discovered, these fungi can be difficult to grow. The bacteria, on the other hand, named Ideonella sakaensis, is easy to grow. This bacteria can live on the PET, and “eat” it in its entirety. Furthermore, the Kyoto University research team identified and isolated the enzyme in Ideonella sakaensis that breaks down the PET, and manufactured it.

Using this bacteria, and its active enzyme, PET plastic could be broken down to its chemical constituents, and used to make new plastic products, which many companies prefer over recycled plastics (backwards, yes, but such is the industry). If this method takes off, it would eliminate the need for many of the raw materials used to make plastic.

Uruguay’s big shift towards renewable energy

During the recent climate summit in Paris, the nation of Uruguay announced that a whopping 94.5 percent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources. The fact that Uruguay has accomplished this, and the ways in which it did so, are an encouraging sign that any nation can make this transition — without increasing consumer costs.



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