Japanese researchers have recently discovered bacteria that can break down plastics. This revolutionary innovation will clean up our oceans and landfills making planet earth a better place to live. The research findings were published in the March 11, 2016, issue of ‘Science’ journal. This study was conducted by a group led by Dr. Kanji Miyamoto of Keio University, Kanagawa.
While screening bacterial candidates that depend on PET film as a primary source of energy, they came across the bacteria named ‘Ideonella sakaiensis’. These bacteria used two enzymes to break down the PET. After adhering to the PET surface, they secrete one enzyme onto the PET to generate an intermediate chemical. That chemical is then taken up by the cell, where another enzyme breaks down the PET further. According to researchers, this bacterial hero can completely degrade a thin film of PET after six weeks at a temperature of 30°C (86°F).
Every year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. The plastics, which that are thrown into landfills are burnt releasing toxic fumes. The others that go into oceans kill fishes, turtles, and whales. Several research programmes have been undertaken to combat this issue. One of the studies found out a few species of fungi that can grow on PET, but till now, no one had found any microbes that can eat it. These latest findings will open a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem.