Mutant Bacteria Could Be Answer to Plastics Pollution Crisis (Important) (Download PDF)


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Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas, & it’s only getting bigger. In fact, some estimates claim that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in ocean. New scientific discovery is providing some hope in plastics pollution crisis.

Image of Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Image of Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Image of Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Plastic Eating Bacteria

  • 2 years ago, team of Japanese scientists found bacteria that could “eat” one of world’s most popular kinds of plastics, polyethylene terephthalate, a. k. a. PET.

  • In process of studying just how this bacteria breaks down plastic, British & American scientists accidentally created mutant enzyme that’s even better at breaking down PET.

Image of Types of Plastic

Image of Types of Plastic

Image of Types of Plastic

  • Popular Science claims that this discovery could “finally allow us to recycle plastic drink bottles for 1st time ever. “

Significance of “Plastic Problem”

  • Plastic has become one of most concerning environmental issues of our time. More than 1 million plastic bottles are bought around world every minute, & most of them are made from PET, which can take up to 400 years to break down naturally.

  • Even though PET is relatively easy to recycle, more than half of PET waste around world is not collected for recycling. Only 7 % of PET bottles are recycled into new bottles.

Newly discovered mutant enzyme can break down PET in just few days.

Problem with Recycling

  • Current recycling strategies for PET bottles mostly focus on mechanical recycling, so they chop bottles up & use them for applications that typically do not need same materials requirements as bottles.

  • Engineered enzymes that break PET down to its building blocks would enable full bottle-to-bottle recycling.

Regulating Plastic Consumption

  • We must change how we approach & consume plastic products on wider scale.

  • New breakthrough could be “slow process” since new enzymes are not present in nature & would therefore need to be produced & then added to PET plastic.

  • System changes must be done to reduce volume of throwaway plastic packaging & make sure plastic drinks bottles are collected & separated effectively.

- Published/Last Modified on: July 18, 2018

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