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Michigan Technological University
Enriched microbial consortia from natural environments provide novel method for upcycling plastic waste
Abstract: Most polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic waste is landfilled or pollutes the environment. At the same time, global food production is inadequate to support the growing population. By using microorganisms in an industrial system designed to upcycle plastic into edible microbial protein powder, we may be able to solve both problems simultaneously. Many microorganisms can utilize plastics as feedstock, and the resultant microbial biomass contains fats, nutrients, and proteins like those found in human diets. While microbial degradation of PET is promising, biological PET depolymerization is too slow to resolve the global plastic crisis and projected food shortages. Research presented here demonstrates that by coupling chemical depolymerization and biological degradation of PET, and by using cooperative microbial communities, microbes can efficiently and flexibly degrade plastic waste into microbial biomass.
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