STATES CHRONICLE – Pollution is engulfing our planet and has triggered the climate change we are now trying so hard to battle. If we want to save our planet we need to cut on all pollution factors. There have been talks about reducing CO2 emissions, which will definitely help, but we must consider pollutants that affect soil and water as well.
Some of these pollutants are plastics. Usually plastic bottles are found lying around thrown out by people who couldn’t bother find a bin. The huge amounts of plastic bottles are hard to control and recycle, as not all people are separating garbage and the quantity of plastic grows higher at a faster pace than we are able to recycle it.
Thankfully, a team of Japanese researchers found a type of bacteria that can destroy PETs. PETs are the most common type of bottles, the plastic they’re made of being polyethylene terephthalate, hence the name. The same kind of plastic can also be found in frozen-dinner trays, blister packaging, and polyester clothing.
Why are we using PET so much if it is so harmful to the environment? Well, it appears that PET has its good parts: it’s lightweight, has no color, and it is also very strong. The bad part is that it is also very resistant to microbes responsible for biodegradation.
It has been previously discovered that there are several species of fungi which can grow on PET. However, there were no microbes found that could eat PET. In their search for a plastic-eating microbe, the researchers collected 250 samples of soil, sediment and wastewater which were PET-contaminated.
After screening the microbes found in the samples, they discovered that there were one bacteria species responsible for PET degradation and named it Ideonella sakainesis. The bacteria use two enzymes to destroy the PET. According to their analysis, it would take the bacteria about six weeks to fully degrade a thin film of PET, provided the temperature is at a steady 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although the discovery might turn out to be a very useful one, the process of gathering plastic bottles and melting them to create new ones, is still a good solution as well, especially since we get to reuse the PET.
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