In 2016 researchers led by microbiologist Kohei Oda of the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan reported a surprise discovery. Oda’s team visited a recycling site that focused on items made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a clear plastic that is used to make clothing fibres and drinks bottles.
Like all plastics, PET is a material made up of long string-like molecules. These are assembled from smaller molecules strung together into chains. The chemical bonds in PET chains are strong, so it is long-lasting – exactly what you do not want in a single-use plastic.
Oda’s team took samples of sediment and wastewater that were contaminated with PET, and screened them for micro-organisms that could grow on the plastic. It found a new strain of bacterium, called Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6. This microbe could grow on pieces of PET. Not only that: Oda’s team reported that the bacterium could use PET as its main source of nutrients, degrading the PET in the process.
When we learn to work with nature, rather than against her & utilise natural processes like this we'll find that nature can help solve many of the problems that our industrial consumer culture has created. That's the basis of the culture we need to create. https://t.co/ZwPCTKFNSN
— Alan Watson Featherstone (@AlanWatsonFeat1) February 5, 2022