Scientists Discover New Plastic-Eating Bacteria That Could Help Save the Environment

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Source: David Sillitoe /Guardian

Source: David Sillitoe /Guardian

Scientists in Japan may have had a major breakthrough in helping to solve the immense plastic pollution problem.

Japanese scientists believe they may have discovered a strain of bacteria that can eat plastic. The bacteria “fully breaks down one of the most common kinds of plastic called Polyethylene terephthalate (PET),” shared CNN. PET can often be found in packaged drinking bottles, cosmetics, and household cleaners.

“It’s the most unique thing. This bacterium can degrade PET and then make their body from PET,” lead researcher Shosuke Yoshida, a microbiologist at Kyoto University, shared with NPR.

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The findings were published in the academic journal, Science, on Friday. The journal shared that “ideonella sakaiensis breaks down the plastic by using two enzymes to hydrolyze PET and a primary reaction intermediate, eventually yielding basic building blocks for growth.”

The breakthrough discovery could be a huge improvement regarding the environment. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), “almost a third of all plastic packaging escapes collection systems and ends up in nature or clogging up infrastructure.”

According to a report done by the WEF, where data was collected from 20 different studies and interviews with 180 experts on the subject, “only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling and that there will be more plastic than fish calculated by weight in the world’s oceans by 2050.”

This isn’t the first discovery of a bacterium that could help the environment. Back in September, scientists discovered that mealworms could live on a diet of Styrofoam.

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