October 3, 2019


Could this plastic-eating enzyme be the miracle solution to our plastic problem? (ADELE PETERS, 10/02/19, fast Company)

Three years ago, Japanese scientists discovered a tiny new bacteria with an unusual ability: The organism, which lived in soil near a plastic bottle recycling plant, could eat plastic. A year later, a plastic-eating fungus was discovered in a landfill in Pakistan. The year after that, a college student discovered plastic-eating bacteria in a polluted site in Houston. Now, researchers from Hitachi and Cambridge Consultants, an engineering and product development company, plan to use synthetic biology to manufacture a similar plastic-eating enzyme. It could later be used in recycling plants or in the environment--and potentially even in the ocean, where as much as 12.7 million metric tons of plastic ends up every year.

"Attacking the problem biologically means that you have the ability to come up with a range of solutions," says James Hallinan, business development manager of synthetic biology at Cambridge Consultants. The company, which has worked in various fields for nearly 60 years, started working in synthetic biology in 2015. "It's really about the engineering of biology, making it predictable and definable and reproducible," he says. "And this idea that, in the future, more and more products are going to be made via a biological process, as compared to the old traditional way of making things from chemicals, and in particular petrochemicals."

Posted by at October 3, 2019 6:39 AM