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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Scientists discover the plastic-eating bacteria

We produces 311 million tonnes of waste each year. And in the 2050, waste dumped into the sea is expected to exceed the number of fish. About one sixth of the litter is made of durable plastic or so-called polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

This is bad news for the planet and living creatures in it, but nature always has its own way. Currently, the researchers have found bacteria have a surprising appetite of the polymer.
Plastic waste in the oceans. Scientists say that 99 percent of microscopic plastic in the ocean is lost, it is likely eaten by animals. (Picture from: http://adf.ly/1YeFRG)
These bacteria named Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, it has the ability to break down a thin layer of PET in just six weeks with a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. These bacteria break down the PET into terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, two chemicals that are harmful to the environment using two different enzymes.

The researchers team of Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University found bacteria after collecting 250 samples of debris sediment, soil and waste water from plastic bottle recycling sites. The discovery is published in the journal Science.

The team also managed to identify the gene in the bacteria’s DNA responsible for the plastic-decomposing enzymes, using that knowledge to generate new enzymes that successfully broke down PET in the laboratory.

The interesting thing about this study is that the researchers believe the bacterial enzyme may be an outgrowth of the recent evolution, because new types of plastics are found 70 years ago. Of course this is good news. 

However, many scientists were skeptical regarding how practical these bacteria can overcome the world's plastic problems. But at least now it is beginning to look a speck of solutions light to the problems of plastic waste. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | SCIENCE ALERT]
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