Bacteria feeding on plastic waste discovered

While scientists around the world argue about how to deal with millions of tons of plastic waste, a team of researchers at the Kyoto Institute of Technology, led by Dr. Shosuke Yoshida, discovered unusual bacteria among 250 garbage samples near one of the recycling plants of polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

The bacteria were in the soil among silt and other organic sediment and actually fed on plastic waste, getting energy from it and replenishing the carbon stock. Later, already in laboratory conditions, bacteria placed in a plastic bottle “ate” it within a few weeks.

At the heart of this "healthy appetite" are enzymes produced by the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis, which, according to scientists, was nature's "response" to the appearance of a huge amount of plastic waste.

Fungi that eat plastic have been detected before, but it has not been possible to breed them on an industrial scale. Japanese scientists have identified a bacterial gene responsible for the production of enzymes. Now science has an effective means of disposing of plastic waste.