Scientists are turning used PET bottles into vanilla flavors | plastic

PET bottles have been converted into vanilla flavors using genetically modified bacteria. This was the first time valuable chemicals had been brewed from waste plastic.

Upcycling PET bottles into more profitable materials can make the recycling process much more attractive and effective. Currently, plastic loses around 95% of its value as a material when used once. Promoting better collection and use of such waste is a global plastic pollution problem.

Researchers are already developing degrading mutated enzyme The polyethylene terephthalate polymer used in beverage bottles is built into its basic unit, terephthalic acid (TA). Scientists are now using beetles to convert TA to vanillin.

Often used in the food and cosmetic industries, vanillin is an important bulk chemical used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, detergents, and herbicides. Global demand is growing and reached 37,000 tons in 2018, which is significantly higher than the supply of natural vanilla pods. Currently, around 85% of vanillin is synthesized from chemicals derived from fossil fuels.

Joanna Sadler of the University of Edinburgh, who did a new study, said, “This is the first example of using a biological system to upcycling plastic waste into valuable industrial chemicals, which has a very stimulating impact on the circular economy.”

“Our job is to challenge the perception that plastic is a problematic waste and instead use it as a new carbon resource that can make high quality products,” said Stephen Wallace of the University of Edinburgh. Shows. “

Approx. 1 million PET bottles are sold worldwide every minute and only 14% are recycled. Even recycled bottles can now only be processed into opaque fibers for clothing and carpets.

research, published in the journal Green Chemistry, uses E. coli, which is designed to convert TA to vanillin. Scientists heated the microbial broth to 37 ° C per day under the same conditions as when brewing beer, Wallace said. This converted 79% of TA to vanillin.

Scientists then refine the bacteria to further increase their conversion, he said. You can find a great robotized DNA assembly plant here. We will also work on scaling the process of converting large quantities of plastic. Other valuable molecules such as those used in perfumes can also be brewed from TA.

Ellis Crawford of Royal Society Chemistry explains as follows. “This is a very interesting application of microbial science to improve sustainability. Using microorganisms to turn polluting plastic waste into vital raw materials is a beautiful demonstration of green chemistry. “

Recent studies have shown that bottles are the second most common type of plastic pollution at sea after a plastic bag. In 2018, scientists accidentally created a mutated enzyme that degrades PET bottles, and in follow-up work, superenzyme that eats PET bottles even faster.

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