Genetically Modified Bacteria Break Down Plastics in Saltwater

Researchers have genetically engineered a marine microorganism to break down plastic in salt water. Specifically, the modified organism can break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic used in everything from water bottles to clothing that is a significant contributor to microplastic pollution in oceans. “This is exciting because we need to address plastic pollution in marine environments,” says Nathan Crook, PhD, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. “One option is to pull the plastic out of the water and put it in a landfill, but that poses challenges of its own. It would be better if we could break these plastics down into products that can be re-used. For that to work, you need an inexpensive way to break the plastic down. Our work here is a big step in that direction.”

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