Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra
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Plastic into Vanilla
Scientists have figured out a way to convert plastic waste into vanilla flavoring with genetically engineered bacteria. So your future ice cream may be flavored with plastic bottles. Vanillin, the compound that carries most of the smell and taste of vanilla, can be extracted naturally from vanilla beans or made synthetically. About 85% of vanillin is currently made from chemicals taken from fossil fuels.
Vanillin is found in a wide variety of food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, cleaning and herbicide products, and the demand is "growing rapidly," the authors wrote in the study. In 2018, the global demand for vanillin was about 40,800 tons and it's expected to grow to 65,000 tons by 2025 People just the taste of vanilla natural or synthetic.
The demand for vanillin far exceeds the vanilla bean supply, so scientists have resorted to synthetically producing vanillin. For the new study, researchers used a novel method to convert plastic waste into vanillin, as a way to both supply vanillin and reduce plastic pollution.
Previous studies showed how to break down plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate into its basic subunit, known as terephthalic acid. In the new study, two researchers at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to convert terephthalic acid into vanillin. Terephthalic acid and vanillin have very similar chemical compositions and the engineered bacteria only needs to make minor changes to the number of hydrogens and oxygens that are bonded to the same carbon backbone.
The researchers mingled their genetically engineered bacteria with terephthalic acid and kept them at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degree Celsius) for a day. About 79% of the terephthalic acid subsequently converted into vanillin. A pretty high concentration and a good idea to rid the world of plastic,.
The global plastic waste crisis is now recognized as one of the most pressing environmental issues facing our planet. The amount of plastic being manufactured and then thrown away is filling up our oceans, killing our marine life.And using much more fossil fuels.
About 1 million plastic bottles are sold every minute around the world, and only 14% are recycled. Those that are recycled can only be turned into fibers for clothing or carpets. This new discovery will be amazing. Plastic has always been portrayed as being a problematic waste and, because of this new discovery instead demonstrates its use as a new carbon resource from which high-value products can be made.
Maybe there is hope for our oceans and our planet. But humans must start being careful with their plastic waste and dispose it into recycling cans. We need to make all plastic the same color and manufacture it in the same process so we can reuse it and people can put all plastic into the same recycling cans.
Anyway, the next time you are savoring that vanilla ice cream cone, you might be enjoying the taste of vanilla converted from an old discarded bottled water container that you threw away. Or manufactured from plastic removed from the plastic patch floating around in the ocean.