Japanese scientists have discovered a bacterium that eats PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the plastic used in the manufacture of much of the worlds plastic bottles and other packaging, and one of the biggest problems with landfill and pollution issues.
PET is an appealing packaging material since it is strong, lightweight, and colourless, but it is highly resistant to biodegradation, and until now no known bacteria was able to consume the material and break it down.
Clearly this could have major benefits for the environment.
Previously a fungi had been discovered that could live on PET, but until this research no bacterium had ever been known to be able to actually eat the material.
It was discovered by collecting soil samples from various recycling plants which seemed to contain a collection of bacteria that broke down the material, before discovering that it was a single bacteria, named Ideonella sakainesis, that uses two enzymes in the process.
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