Archive 2020


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Degradation of Polystyrene

Everyone has heard of the problems of plastic pollution. Especially in the oceans it causes severe damage to sea animals and the ecosystem as a whole. The most common plastic is polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET. It is found in plastic bottles and many other products of daily use. Methods of breaking down this type of plastic have already been developed by iGEM teams in the past. But is there a universal solution applicable to all the other types of plastic?

Unfortunately, no. Plastics are a very heterogeneous group of substances and their chemical structures differ a lot from each other, which is why one needs different approaches to attain their biological degradation. Our newly founded team has come up with a promising new idea of degrading polystyrene, abbreviated PS, which is the world’s number three on the list of the most abundant plastics: the larvae of the beetle Tenebrio molitor, also called flour worm, are able to break down chunks of PS foam into further biodegradable material. The aim of our project is to investigate which species of bacteria inside Tenebrio molitor’s intestines enable it to do that. Furthermore, we plan to isolate the bacteria and improve their special ability by genetically equipping it with another skill that will supposedly make them even more efficient.

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