Plastic eating bacteria could solve recycling problem

Japanese scientists discover new PET eating bacteria

According to scientists, a new bacteria has emerged which has the ability to eat the troublesome PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastics that are plaguing the globe.

PET plastics present a particular problem to the world, as they are difficult to recycle. Figures shows that 56 million tonnes of PET plastic was produced in 2013 but only 2.2million of that was recycled, while the rest made its way to overcrowded landfill sites or the world’s oceans.

New PET eating bacteria discovered by scientists

New bacteria can eat away PET plastic

 

A team of Japanese scientists at Kyoto Institute of Technology have discovered a new bacteria which they say eats away at PET plastic using two enzymes. The researchers believe that the PET eating bacteria, which they named Ideonella sakaiensi, must have evolved over time as the man-made PET plastic was only invented in 1941.

According to the scientists, Ideonella sakaiensi uses two enzymes to break down the PET until it becomes two harmless substances, terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, which the bacteria then feeds on.

Koehi Oda, one of the researchers who discovered the bacteria, said: “We have to improve the bacterium to make it more powerful, and genetic engineering might be applicable here.”

The original report, published in the journal Science, says that at present the newly discovered bacteria can eat away a finger-nail sized section of PET within six weeks. At that rate, Ideonella sakaiensi would not make much of a headway with the thousands of tonnes of plastic waste produced globally each year.

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EU suggests more bins for UK households

A new European Commission report advises four recycling bins per UK household

A European commission report outlines demands that would see UK households separating their recycling into four different bins for food, metal, glass and paper, which would have to be collected separately by council waste collectors.

At present, residents in the UK must separate their household waste into two or three council bins; one of which is a commingling recycling bin that contains a separate compartment for paper waste. Many people up and down the nation already feel that the current number of council bins per household present an eyesore and that the system is not successful.

The European commission report comes just a few weeks after a freedom of information report revealed that UK councils are sending more recycling waste to landfill than in previous years, which many people feel makes a mockery of the public’s recycling efforts.

EU advises more bins to reduce waste commingling

EU suggests four wheelie bins per UK household

 

Hot on the heels of this, was a report released last week by resource company, Viridor, which claims that England’s waste management system is “outdated” and a resource network between the private and public sectors would be more beneficial for the country’s economy and the recycling rate.

When asked about the new European Commission report, eurosceptic MP Philip Hollobone, of the Conservative party, told The Sun newspaper: “These sort of decisions need to be taken in this country … They don’t need to be imposed on us by unelected bureaucrats from other countries and we are going to get more such interference if we stay In the EU.”

However, the EU report was also met with approval from some government officials in the UK, including The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as the report suggests that separating recycling waste prevents the contamination that occurs when it is commingled.

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