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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Japanese village produces almost zero-waste

The inhabitants of a southwestern Japanese village have developed a method for recycling that results in almost zero-waste production.

The village of Kamikatsu is located approximately 430 miles away from the bustling Japanese capital, Tokyo. The inhabitants of this small village have devised a way of significantly reducing landfill waste by separating items into categories and even sub-categories; steel cans and aluminium cans, for example, can not be commingled.

Altogether, the inhabitants of Kamikatsu must separate their waste into 34 different bins; and the British think they have it tough with three council bins!

Japanese village recycles 80 per cent of its waste

Japanese village almost zero-waste


The villagers take their organised waste to the local recycling centre, where it is double-checked by the workers. There is now a zero-tolerance approach to the incineration of waste in the village, since it is responsible for producing vast amounts of greenhouse gases which are damaging for the environment.

Any unwanted clothing and furniture is taken to a local shop, where the villagers can exchange their unwanted items for other goods that have been left behind. There is even a factory in the village, where local woman produce goods from recycled materials.

All of these efforts result in a recycle rate of 80 per cent, while the remaining 20 per cent goes to landfill sites. The village hopes to be 100 per cent zero-waste by 2020.