The common bacteria E. coli can transform plastic waste into vanillin, used for vanilla flavouring.
That is according to new research from the University of Edinburgh, which claims that through a series of chemical reactions, the bacteria can turn plastic waste into vanillin that would be fit for human consumption.
It has stated that global demand for vanillin exceeded 37,000 tonnes in 2018, as it is widely used in the food and cosmetic industries.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is considered one of the toughest plastics to recycle but one of the biggest contributors to pollution, regularly used as packaging for food and drink.
The University researchers believe this could be a huge step in the recycling process.
Joanna Sadler, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, commented: “This is the first example of using a biological system to upcycle plastic waste into a valuable industrial chemical and this has very exciting implications for the circular economy.
“The results from our research have major implications for the field of plastic sustainability and demonstrate the power of synthetic biology to address real-world challenges.”