Plastic-Eating Bacteria Could Save Our Seas

By Gerald Lynch on at

Mmm...tasty, tasty plastic-packaged Mr Kipling cakes. A moment on the lips, an eternity in a landfill. Humanity's use (and subsequent dumping) of plastics is growing into an ever more urgent environmental concern, with the non-biodegradable materials laying waste to oceans and animal habitats. But a group of Japanese researchers may have found a solution: bacteria.

As FastCompany reports, the bacteria Ideonella sakaienis 201-F6 has been found capable of breaking down PET (the material used to make lots of plastics) in its entirety. It's a trait that no other bacteria shares, turning the PET into another substance called MHET, with an additional enzyme then breaking that down into even smaller fundamental PET components.

With hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastics produced each year, the bacteria could have an important role to play in reducing the harmful waste we create. But it's not quite the miracle solution we need – though it can break down the plastics, it takes a very long time unless the bacteria is present in vast quantities. Also, any plastics made without PET will remain immune. So think twice about dumping any plastic you could reuse, yeah? [Fast Company]