June 15, 2021

Scientists Discover Sweet New Way to Recycle Plastic

While plastic may be incredibly helpful in some areas, it still poses a major pollution problem. However, some scientists might have figured out a solution to the global issue: make the material tasty and edible.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland proposed utilising bacteria – engineered E. Coli – to break down discarded plastic into vanillin, the very same compound that gives vanilla its unique taste and smell.

The team of scientists used the mutant germs to convert the basic component of terephthalic acid – which is derived from polyethylene terephthalate present in the packaging material – into the sweet-smelling substance with a 79% conversion rate.

Joanna Sadler, the lead on the project, said the discovery has “very exciting implications for the circular economy.”

She said: “The results from our research have major implications for the field of plastic sustainability and demonstrate the power of synthetic biology to address real-world challenges.”

Globally, approximately one million plastic bottles are sold every minute, and only a tenth of those are recycled.

The results of the project have yet to be tested as fit for human consumption, but this breakthrough could potentially turn the tide of plastic pollution around the world.