Discovery Of new bacteria can solve plastic pollution
Written by Adeel Abbas
Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental issues in our time. The accumulation and misuse of petroleum-based plastics have devastating effects on wildlife, human health (including allergies), as well as Earth’s natural resources like oceans where these toxins can affect food chains by altering their concentrations for marine life to consume; when humans eat seafood they ingest some amount from each level up including us shore creatures at higher levels who get smaller habitat due to poor water quality caused from plastic waste.
The recent discovery made by Nara Institute scientists could be the part solution thanks to bacteria capable of not only degrading difficult recyclable but also producing environmentally friendly biodegradable materials which would help cleanse beaches while maintaining economies through more sustainable manufacturing practices.
“Our research has shown that the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis converts PET into PHB, a type of poly(3hydroxybutyrate) (PHAB) plastic that biodegrades more slowly than other forms and is advantageous because it can be used as an alternative to current unsustainable alternatives.”
Scientists have found a novel way of breaking down difficult-to-recycle plastics and using the products to make biodegradable PHA. They believe that this discovery could be significant in tackling plastic pollution, as it shows how one bacterial species can use its own metabolic processes for degrading both types of polyester: those made from oil (PET) and natural-based fibers (PHB).
Ryoga Fujiwara et al, Direct fermentative conversion of poly(ethylene terephthalate) into poly (hydroxy alkanoates) by Ideonella sakaiensis, Scientific Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-99528-x