Good news, a new plastic-eating bacteria has been discovered

11 Mar 2016

Japanese scientists have discovered a new bacteria that eats plastic, offering hope that unwanted bottles and bags can be disposed of in a new way.

It’s an exciting time for people worried about the unending, suffocating grip that discarded plastic has on the planet, with bottle-hungry bacteria discovered days after a major breakthrough was made in renewable manufacturing.

Yesterday, we reported on a discovery made by Stanford University researchers, which could see biomass being used to create plastic in future, replacing standard PET bottles, for example, with a PEF alternative.

Future Human

Now, Japanese researchers claim to have found a PET-hungry bacteria, just itching to eat up all the unwanted plastic we’ve discarded around the planet.

Plastic fantastic lover

Sadly, though, it’s unclear whether or not the bacteria will work any better than incinerators, meaning our seas are still struggling. The new species is called Ideonella sakaiensis, and it was discovered by a team from Kyoto IT and Keio University.

The discovery was quite straightforward, with a collection of PET samples picked up from a recycling plant and peered at through microscopes. The scientists were looking for any microbe activity, any evidence that bacteria was growing on the plastic, honing in on Ideonella sakaiensis as the clear winner.

With the findings published in Science, the ideal environment for Ideonella sakaiensis seems to be a steady temperature of 86ºF but, sadly, there’s no evidence yet that it could clean up our oceans. So our best bet may still be in PET replacement, which is the PEF discovery from yesterday.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic