Microbes Make A Meal Out Of Landfill Plastic

April 11, 2016
Scientists discover polyethylene-eating bacterium.

Plastic piling up in landfills meets its match in a newly discovered microbe that feasts on polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  Japanese researchers have identified the world’s first PET-eating bacterium, according to an article from Scientific American, dubbed Ideonella sakaiensis for the city where it was found. 

While PET is reportedly the most recycled plastic in the United States, millions of metric tons are discarded annually in landfills where the material’s bonds resist breaking down. Researchers searching for microbes that can pull apart these stubborn bonds unearthed the bacterium, which uses PET as its major carbon and energy source and breaks it down faster and more efficiently than other means.

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