A group of Japanese scientists found a bacteria that would eat the plastic found in most disposable water bottles.
The discovery, published in Science on Thursday, could lead to new ways to manage 45 million tons of this particular type of plastic produced worldwide each year.
The plastic found in the water bottle is called PET.
Also found in frozen polyester clothing
Tray and blister packaging.
\"If you\'re walking down the aisle at Walmart, you\'ll see a lot of pets,\" says Tracy Minser, who studies plastics in the ocean at the Woods Hole Marine Institute in Massachusetts.
One of the attractions of PET is its light weight, bright colors and strong.
However, it also has well-known resistance to microbial decomposition --
Experts call it \"biodegradable.
\"Previous studies have found that some fungi can grow in pets, but so far no one has found any edible microorganisms.
The edible bacteria described in this study, from the Japanese research team of Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University, collected 250 pets --
Contaminated samples, including deposits, soil and wastewater from plastic bottle
s recycling sites.
Next, they screened the microorganisms that lived on the samples to see if anyone in them was eating a pet and using it to grow.
They initially found a group of bugs that seemed to destroy the PET film, but eventually found that only one bacterial species was responsible for PET degradation.
They named it sakaiensis Ideonella.
Further testing in the laboratory showed that it used two enzymes to break down pets.
After the bacteria are attached to the surface of the PET, an enzyme is secreted on the PET to produce an intermediate chemical.
This chemical is then absorbed by the cells, and another enzyme is further decomposed to provide the bacteria with the carbon and energy they need to grow.
The researchers report that if the temperature is kept at a stable 30 °c, a sakaiensis Ideonella community that works this way can break down the PET film within six weeks
The study impressed people and did a good job of showing that these organisms absorb plastic very well, Minger said.
However, it is not clear, for example, whether this will help keep plastic out of the ocean, he said.
\"When I think clearly, I really don\'t know where it will take us,\" he said . \".
\"I don\'t see how microorganisms degrade plastics better than putting plastic bottles in the recycle bin so they can be melted to make new plastic bottles.
He added that the study could make it easier to identify other microorganisms that may have similar pets
\"This process may be quite common,\" he said . \"
\"Now that we know what we are looking for, we may see these microorganisms in many parts of the world.
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