This article is from Jun 25, 2021

Scientists discover Vanilla flavour can be made from plastic bottles!

Disposable plastic bottles are causing great harm to the environment as they cannot be recycled properly. Restrictions on the use of plastic have not prevented its versatile use. Most of the waste in the oceans next to plastic bags are disposable plastic bags.

95% of plastics melt after one use. Therefore, researchers are interested in using such plastic waste in a systematic way.

As a result, vanillin is now derived from the genetic material of the plastic, terephthalic acid (TA), by a bacterium called Escherichia coli. This vanillin component is the main component of the vanilla flavour.


Water bottles are made from a substance called polyethene terephthalate (PET). In 2016, a plastic-eating bacterium was discovered in Japan. It is said to play an important role in the disposal of plastic waste and has caused a great deal of controversy around the world. Since 2018, this method was followed after the discovery of a new enzyme from that bacterium. It was 6 times faster to eat plastic than those bacteria that Japan discovered in 2016. Such genetically modified bacteria are referred to as super enzymes.

The same super enzyme that isolated its basic unit terephthalic acid (TA) from PET in 2018 has now converted TA to vanillin. It is currently reported that 79% conversion from TA to vanillin has been achieved.

The research, published by Green Chemistry, is funded by the PBSRC Discovery Fellowship and the UKRI Future Leader Fellowship.

Vanillin is used in many fields such as herbicides and cleaning products in the food and cosmetics industry. In 2018, the global demand for these was more than 37,000 tons.

Usually, vanilla is extracted from vanilla beans. But it is also made artificially due to their high demand and lack of vanilla beans. Currently, 85% of the world’s vanilla demand is made from fossil fuels. But now It has been found that vanilla can now be extracted from plastic waste.

The word “upcycling” is in English. This is the opposite word for recycling. Upcycling is the process of creating an object that is of a higher quality and usefulness than the previous application of an object. To recycle an object in the recycling system it must first break its molecular structure. But it is considered better to use upcycling method than to recycle 95% molecular structure decomposition material after one use like PET.

“This is the first example of the use of a biological method to convert plastic waste into a valuable industrial chemical. This finding is going to have a very exciting impact on the circular economy. ” Said Jonah Chantler, a biochemistry research professor at the University of Edinburgh.

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