PerspectiveMicrobiology

Feeding on plastic

Science  11 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6278, pp. 1154-1155
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2853

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Summary

An estimated 311 million tons of plastics are produced annually worldwide; 90% of these are derived from petrol. A considerable portion of these plastics is used for packaging (such as drinking bottles), but only ~14% is collected for recycling (1). Most plastics degrade extremely slowly, thus constituting a major environmental hazard (2), especially in the oceans, where microplastics are a matter of major concern (3). One potential solution for this problem is the synthesis of degradable plastics from renewable resources (4). This approach provides hope for the future but does not help to get rid of the plastics already in the environment. On page 1196 of this issue, Yoshida et al. (5) address this problem by reporting an organism that can fully degrade a widely used plastic.