Across the world, environmentalists and scientists are doing research and developing techniques to recycle plastic bottles after using them. Now, scientists have found a unique way to make delicious vanilla ice cream from plastic bottles. According to a new study, scientists have found a new and innovative way to convert plastic waste into vanilla flavouring with genetically engineered bacteria. Looking at the demand of Vanillin –- the compound that carries most of the smell and taste of vanilla — scientists have resorted to synthetically producing vanillin by converting plastic waste and reducing plastic pollution.
The research titled, “Microbial synthesis of vanillin from waste poly(ethylene terephthalate)”, was published in the journal “Green Chemistry” in July 2021. Under this study, scientists engineered E coli bacteria (a genetically engineered bacteria) to transform the basic unit of bottle terephthalic acid (TA) into vanillin. The scientists warmed a microbial broth to 37C for a day, the same conditions as for brewing beer, and this converted 79% of the TA into vanillin.
Vanillin is widely used to make pharmaceuticals, cleaning products, and herbicides. Currently, global demand for vanillin is “far exceeding” the supply, and 85 percent of vanillin is currently synthesized from chemicals derived from fossil fuels, The Guardian reported. After a single use, plastics lose about 95 percent of their value as a material. With the new study, scientists have devised a method to brew valuable chemical vanillin from waste plastic for the first time.
Joanna Sadler of the University of Edinburgh, who conducted the study said, “This is the first example of using a biological system to upcycle plastic waste into a valuable industrial chemical and it has very exciting implications for the circular economy.”
Stephen Wallace of the University of Edinburgh said that their work challenges the perception of plastic being a problematic waste. He said that their study demonstrates how plastic can be used as a new carbon resource from which high-value products can be made.
The scientists are planning to further tweak the bacteria to increase the conversion rate.