Plastic-eating Bacteria: biologists find new ways to combat waste

In 2016 scientists discovered a new bacteria (Ideonella sakaiensis) capable of using PET plastics as a source of energy. It evolved to eat plastic waste without our help.

This discovery posed a lot of questions: «Could plastic-eating bacteria become part of our recycling strategy? How would it look like? How efficient could it be?»

Today, researchers in both private and public sector work on engineering special enzymes as answers to pollution. Their creations might be consuming millions of tons of plastic waste in the near future.

One plastic trash heap at a time

91% of plastic isn’t recycled, according to a National Geographic report from last year. Plastic is measured in billions of metric tons, most of it non-biodegradable. Trash persists in the environment and piles up over time.

If bioengineered bacteria can make even a small dent in plastic pollution, it’s worth the effort. According to recent reports, it’s possible to ensure bacteria’s survival on plastic debris. This would speed up the biodegradation and help break plastics up into harmless monomers.

There aren’t many ways of making plastic disappear, so bacteria might be among the few eco-friendly solutions we have. Any efficiency higher than 0 is a win.

To think that a bacteria could naturally evolve in an environment like this.

Some go further than others

French biotech startup Carbios uses the same «bacterial» approach to create 100% recycled plastic. They engineered enzymes that break PET plastic into components.

These «bacterial» solutions don’t work on an industrial scale yet, but according to a recent report they soon will be. Carbios initiatives are echoed by many large enterprises, all working to produce innovative biodegradable plastic solutions. 

Awareness to the dangers of virgin plastic grows, and so are the initiatives to combat them.

In line with the «green» trend

Solutions to plastic pollution are a big focus in 2019. Plastic trash simply cannot be ignored any longer. 73% of beach litter alone is made up of plastic, so how much further can we go?

We covered some innovative solutions (like using cactus leaf juice to create non-toxic plastics), as well as the issues Japan faces with its plastic trash.

Consumer trends are a powerful force in this fight – more people are going «green», holding companies and public officials accountable for environmental damage.

Prevention is better than cure

However exciting plastic-eating bacteria and cactus juice plastics can be, they’re still in the future. With over 300 million tons of non-recycled plastic produced annually, we’re still far from living in a clean world.

Solutions gain additional support and financial backing when people are aware of the problem.

Sharing «green» initiatives, using recycled packaging, buying responsibly – all these small steps go a long way toward a better future.

Bio-engineered bacteria have enough plastic trash to get rid of.

Let’s give them a break.  

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