The planet whisks out 311 million tonnes of plastic each year. So, by 2050, plastic wastes – about a sixth of those trash is made up of a very durable plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – in the sea are likely to outweigh fishes.
But while this is really bad for the animals and the world, nature finds its way: Scientists have discovered a microorganisms that has created a hunger for this plastic.
The microorganism called Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, has got the capability to break up a thin film of PET in just six weeks at 86ºF (30ºC). Utilizing two different enzymes, the microorganism breaks down PET into two substances which are safe to the environment: ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.
The research group from Keio University and Kyoto Institute of Technology have found out the bacteria after gathering 250 samples of PET debris from dirt deposits and from the plastic container recycling site.
Surprisingly, the scientists think that the bacteria’s enzymes might be a fairly recent evolutionary development, as these types of plastics were only invented 70 years ago.
It’s a great news, really. But, many researchers are suspicious about how exactly useful this microorganisms could be in handling the globe’s plastics issue.
A specialist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Tracy Mincer, stated in a declaration,
When I think it through, I don’t really know where [this discovery] gets us. I don’t see how microbes degrading plastics is any better than putting plastic bottles in a recycling bin so they can be melted down to make new ones.”
Nevertheless, he stayed positive that this breakthrough might lead the way for the identification of more microorganisms which have created a capability to break down other contaminants along with plastics.
This process could be quite common. Now that we know what we are looking for, we may see these microbes in many areas around the world,” Mincer concluded.