The idea of recycling plastic bottles and plastic bags sounds good on paper, but the reality is that it isn’t quite as easy. This is because it can sometimes cost more energy to recycle than it takes to produce, and as it stands, it has been estimated that plastics tend to lose 95% of their value as a material after a single use.
Naturally these factors can potentially discourage recycling, but what if there was a side-effect or benefit (other than saving our planet) to recycling? That could help make it an incentive to recycle, and that’s what researchers have done where they have managed to recycle plastic bottles and turn it into vanilin.
This is based on previous research efforts which resulted in the creation of a mutant enzyme that helps “eat” plastic and can turn plastic bottles back into its basic units, terephthalic acid (TA). Researchers then took that TA and turned it into vanilin, a chemical that is used not just in food, but also cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
What this means is by creating a useful byproduct as the result from recycling, it could make recycling a potentially revenue earner, where recycling plants could earn money by selling these chemicals to other industries. It isn’t quite ready for prime time just yet as the researchers are still working on it. They are currently planning on tweaking the bacteria to help increase the conversion rate further.