Students engineer bacteria that can turn plastic waste into water and CO2
It is no secret that humanity's plastic waste is having a negative impact on the natural world. Every day in the media, we are bombarded with images showing literally tons of plastic trash littering our planet and threatening many of the Earth's species. In addition, the production of plastic is not only unsustainable, but the gases that are released when plastic is burned are damaging to the ozone layer.
But now, a pair of students have bioengineered a miracle strain of bacteria that can apparently convert plastic waste into water and Co2.
Jeanny Yao and Miranda Wang have spent years working on their method of 'upcycling' plastic pollution into 'biosurfactants for the textile industry'.
Using their specially-engineered microbes, they can chemically break down plastic polymers such as polystyrene and polyethene, and turn them back into organic compounds.
Check out this video of Jeanny and Miranda's TED talk below:
As Jenny and Miranda's website states: "BioCellection’s conversion technology involves the chemical breakdown of plastic polymers, such as polystyrene and post-consumer film, into organic compounds, followed by biological conversion into valuable products. BioCellection upcycles unrecyclable plastic waste into valuable compound rhamnolipid for textiles using genetically engineered bacteria."
It later adds: "It happens in a two-step process that tackles plastic pollution one plastic at a time. By coupling chemistry and synthetic biology, Biocellection creates a novel process that breaks down plastic into usable building blocks that are then turned into other valuable materials."
The two young scientists have been awarded five prizes from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for their findings and have won a number of entrepreneurship contests for their discovery.
After they were given the opportunity to present a TED X talk on their proposed solution to plastic waste, they managed to secure more than $300,000 in funding, and the duo is now planning to move to Silicon Valley to further the development of biotech.
This will come as good news to many, especially since the government of Malaysia is reportedly sending back 3,300 tonnes of British, Australian, Canadian, and American plastic waste found in their oceans.