Ideonella Sakaiensis: The future of the planet?

Did you know that there was actually an 8th continent on our planet? No, we did not make a new discovery, but we all participated in its creation. So CONGRATULATIONS! The 8th continent is actually a pile of detritus and plastics. A real problem for the environment! But there is still a bit of a hope that scientists have found a solution: Ideonella Sakaiensis.

Who is Ideonella Sakaiensis?

Discovered accidentally, Ideonella Sakaiensis is actually a bacterium. Discovered in Japan, it won't be a lie to call that bacterium “a plastic eater” even though it took him approximately 6 weeks to “eat” a small fragment of PET (plastic). You are probably thinking that this is way too long, and we do not need this bacterium to solve the problem we currently have: millions of tons of plastic that pollute the environment. But it is important for us to keep in mind that the natural phenomenon of plastic degradation can last up to a thousand years. So this discovery could be a real solution and bring some hope for humanity.

How does Ideonella Sakaiensis work?

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a material used in the manufacture of plastic packaging. It is this polymer that is responsible for our problems. However, there are enzymes that are able to destroy the polyethylene terephthalate. Studies have discovered the presence of these two important enzymes in the genome of this bacterium: PETase and MHETase. Ideonella Sakaiensis is the first organism in which these two enzymes have been found, which makes it even more special. Although the research is still in progress, if it has good results, it could save our oceans and our entire planet. For the moment plastic is still a real problem that does not say its name. We must therefore continue if we are already doing it or start paying attention to our lifestyle in order to recycle as much plastic as possible.