Innovation That Matters

Researchers have discovered a micro-bug that eats plastic


Japanese researchers have discovered a plastic-eating microorganism called Ideonella sakaiensis, which could help break down PET plastic.

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Japanese researchers have discovered a plastic-eating microorganism, which could help recycle some of the millions of tons of PET plastic currently filling landfills and polluting the world’s oceans.


The microorganism, a bacterium named Ideonella sakaiensis, is able to completely digest the commonly used PET plastic, which otherwise takes around 450 years to break down. Ideonella sakaiensis was discovered by scientists studying plastic in recycling facilities in Osaka, Japan. It uses a pair of enzymes to break down PET and turn it into a food source. But it is a very slow process — after six week the bacterium had broken down a small film of low-grade PET. The researchers at Keio University will continue their studies in the hopes of discovering a way to speed up the degradation process.

Could this work on a larger scale one day?



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