October 10, 2008 11:29 am

As the evenings grow cooler and the warm summer sun is replaced by the gray overcast shade of fall, many people are pulling in the lawn furniture and hunkering down for cool weather. Well, people aren’t the only ones moving indoors as the season changes – bugs are migrating indoors, too.

InventHelp’s Invention Girl can appreciate bugs for their usefulness in nature, but I can’t say I love it when I find one in my home! So, as the season changes I’ll occasionally remind myself why bugs are a crucial part of our ecosystem. Like this bacteria, for example, that can improve recycling!

Although billions of plastic bottles are made each year, few are ultimately recycled. This is because the recycling process simply converts the low value PET bottles into more PET, Kevin O’Connor at University College Dublin, Ireland told ABC News.

Scientists knew that heating PET in the absence of oxygen – a process called pyrolysis – breaks it down into terephthalic acid (TA) and a small amount of oil and gas. They also knew that some bacteria can grow and thrive on TA, and that other bacteria produce a high-value plastic PHA when stressed.

The ideal solution, they thought, would be to find bacteria that could both feed on TA and convert it into PHA.

After extensive research, bacterial alchemists found the Pseudomonas strains, which convert the low-grade PET plastic used in drinks bottles into a more valuable and biodegradable plastic called PHA.
The end goal, O’Connor said, “would be to use the new bacteria as just one part of a bio-refinery capable of upcycling an array of waste products in an environmentally friendly way.”

Stories like this help InventHelp’s Invention Girl appreciate the diversity of life on our planet. Isn’t science wonderful?

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