It is estimated that since the 1950s humans have produced more than eight billion tonnes of plastic. While many of us are avid recyclers this has not always been an option for disposing of plastic, so a vast quantity of this plastic is currently residing in landfill or in our environment. For the sake of the planet it is important to firstly reduce the use of plastics, but also to find ways to effectively and completely recycle these plastic products.
Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ have discovered a bacterium that shows potential for recycling polyurethane plastics, which are typically difficult to recycle. The bacterium is a new species of Pseudomonas, and it was discovered in a waste site. The researchers discovered that it is capable of not only breaking down polyurethane plastic but using the plastic as a source of food.
It will be important to identify the genes present in the bacteria that encode the enzymes that are breaking down the plastic. A great deal of additional research will be required before these bacteria are set loose on our landfill, however, it does offer some hope that we may be able to recycle difficult plastics like polyurethane using bacteria. In the meantime, we can all do our part by reducing our use of plastics and ensuring we do our best to recycle them.
Source: The Guardian
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