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Japans Plastic-Eating Bacteria

Updated: Jan 8, 2023

As human civilization progresses, the amount of plastic on our lands and waters piles higher. Every day, eight million pieces of plastic make it into our oceans to contaminate the seas we live off of. Although the amount of trash that ends up in our waters progresses, a few researchers in Japan have possibly found a solution to our plastic problem.

The research team responsible for identifying the bacteria-eating plastic is located in Japan’s Kyoto Institute of Technology. Their fantastic work aims to create a school capable of attracting and producing engineers, researchers, and businesspeople, all while utilizing their open resources to develop top innovations and an Asian hub of a global network.

The bacteria in question is called the Ideonella sakaiensis bacterium and was identified as researchers were screening a variety of bacterial candidates able to break down PET (an ingredient of plastic), researchers also found they prefer low-grade PET and sustains off of it.

The way ideonella breaks down PET is through an enzyme called ISF6-4831 that works with water to deconstruct PET to a more basic structure and further deconstructs through the second enzyme, ISF6-0224. The two enzymes can break down PET into its simpler forms.

Although the benefits of ideonella seem to have no downsides, releasing the bacteria into the uncontained wild will immensely damage the environment. If consumed, their hazardous contents will be passed back to humans through food chains.

Although we cannot make use of this magnificent discovery, students and workers at Kyoto Institute of Technology are working hard to prevent more sea life damage due to plastic.

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