Are you about to concoct your grandmother’s custard recipe but forgot to buy the essential vanilla bean? Don’t panic, a simple bottle of Coca-Cola or Evian might soon be enough. In a study published on June 10, British scientists revealed that they had succeeded in transforming a plastic bottle into vanilla flavoring.
Concretely, the researchers have developed mutant enzymes which have made it possible to break down the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which makes up the bottles (especially water) to separate the terephthalic acid. This substance was then recycled into vanillin, using bacteria E. coli genetically modified. The authors of the study ensured that the process was similar to that of brewing beer: a day of microbial broth at 37 ° C was enough for 79% of the acid to miraculously turn into vanilla flavor. Even if the prospect of licking a scented ice cream from this process may seem uninspiring, this astonishing discovery may well represent a practical solution to two major problems.
On the one hand, the global demand for vanillin exceeded 37,000 tonnes in 2018, while the production of natural vanilla beans was less than 8,000 tonnes. The price per kilo of this spice – the most expensive after saffron – had risen from 50 to over 600 dollars. In order to meet needs and preserve its margins, the industry is therefore turning to chemical components and 85% of vanillin is today produced from fossil fuels.
A gradual transition
On the other hand, plastic bottles, which flow an average of one million units every minute, are the second most common type of plastic pollution in the oceans, just behind bags. By 2050, researchers fear that there will be more waste of this material in the water ” superb, cynical and so much more economical »(As the group Tryo denounces in its hit The air of plastic) than fish.
The prowess achieved by these researchers tends to prove that post-consumer plastic is not doomed to become unnecessary waste. It is by imagining innovative and profitable recycling solutions like this one that industry leaders will seize the subject and fully exploit the benefits of green chemistry. Fortunately, manufacturers are already making their ecological transition, as shown by the charter signed Monday, June 14 by polystyrene manufacturers and users, which aims for 100% recycling by 2025.
Source: UsineNouvelle – Actualités A la une by www.usinenouvelle.com.
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