25 ינו' 2022
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Bacteria: The secret weapon in the war on plastic pollution

BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, has signed a research collaboration agreement with Portugal's ECOIBÉRIA in the field of plastic recycling by bacteria, the university announced Wednesday.

The project is based on research by Professor Ariel Kushmaro and ProfessorAlex Sivan, both from the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology and Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering at BGU.


Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most abundantly used polymer in the world, with multiple applications in the textile industry as well as in food and beverage packaging. An estimated 56 million tons of PET are produced yearly worldwide, mostly as single-use packaging.

Kushmaro, Sivan and their team have been studying plastic biodegradation and have discovered several bacteria species that are able to biodegrade polyethylene, which was previously considered a non-biodegradable plastic.

Based on these findings, the research collaboration project will assess PET biodegradation by previously identified bacteria as well as novel ones, with the aim of developing an efficient biodegradation process of PET. Byproducts of the process would be used to make recycled PET.

Products that contain plastic are cone of the "biggest environmental challenges facing modern society," Kushmaro said, calling bacterial degradation of PET into recyclable materials a "promising strategy that can have a global environmental and economic impact."

ECOIBÉRIA CEO Jorge Lemos said that his company's mission was to guarantee the sustainability of the production and consumption models and "assist in the transition from the linear economy to the circular economy."

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