E. Coli Eats Up Plastic and Churns Out Vanilla

U.K. scientists used E. coli to transform plastic waste into vanillin, the molecule responsible for the characteristic smell and taste of vanilla. This means it’s possible to transform plastic into a highly useful material for cosmetics manufacturing.

Researchers used genetic engineering to create a strain of E. coli that converts one of the chemicals used to make plastic into vanillin.

Because vanillin can produce many other higher value-added products, this is a big step toward a circular supply chain for plastics, researchers say, because it transforms plastic waste into a usable material.

Researchers plan to optimize and scale the reaction, and explore how to make other valuable molecules from plastic waste.

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