Researchers Find Ways To Turn Plastic Waste Into Vanilla Flavor

Plastic bottle material is known to have a compound composition that is very similar to vanilla

JAKARTA – A recent study by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, succeeded in converting plastic bottle waste into vanilla flavoring genetically through bacteria.

Quoted from The Guardian, vanilla or the component that carries the smell and taste of vanilla, can be extracted naturally through the vanilla bean or made synthetically.

But unfortunately, 85% of vanilla made today is made from compounds produced from fossil fuels, making it less environmentally friendly. Not to mention, nowadays the need for vanilla continues to increase for food, cosmetic, and other products.

From a research conducted in 2018, it is known that the world demand for vanilla is around 40 thousand tons, and that number will continue to increase to 65,000 tons in 2025.

For that, the researchers then looked for ways, how to produce vanilla while reducing plastic waste. The research was fruitful.

By breaking a plastic bottle made of polyethylene terephthalate into sub units, they turned it into vanilla using the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli).

The plastic bottle material is known to have a compound composition that is very similar to vanilla. So the researchers only needed the bacteria that had been set up, to make a slight change in the amount of hydrogen and oxygen bonded to the same carbon, in order to turn it into vanilla.

“The problem of plastic waste is currently recognized as one of the environmental problems that we face on this planet. Our challenge is to change the perception of plastic as waste into a new source of carbon that can be a high-value product,” the study said.

Plastic waste is one of the environmental problems that has been faced by the world since many years ago. Based on a 2016 World Bank report, it was found that there were around 242 million tons of plastic waste in the world.

It is estimated that this number can continue to increase, if people do not start changing their lifestyle to become more environmentally friendly.

For example, using containers or cutlery that can be used repeatedly when eating out, bringing your own shopping bag, to choosing products made with environmentally friendly materials and processes.

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