The increasing contamination of our environment with plastic waste like bottles, textiles and moulded components leads to a serious risk for nature and humans. Over 150 million tons of plastics are produced per year. The majority of these plastics is the polymer polyethylene terephthalate (short PET). While most of the produced plastics are not disposed correctly, especial in the emergent and developing country's a huge amount ends up in rivers and finally in the sea.
Ones arrived there the plastic parts accumulate in ozean streams, swirls or at the shores.
PET is a non digestible plastic, so it stays in the environment. But under constant contact with salty seawater, UV irradiation and mechanical stress the PET is bruised into particles with a size spectra of micro and nano meters.
These particles have a hydrophobic surface, where mutagenic substances and toxins can attach. These particles are taken up by fish and clamps and therefore enter into the food chain with unknown long-term effects.
At present there is no microorganism known which is able to digest synthetic plastics. In some sea territories plastic micro particles exceeds the plankton concentration. This is highly alarming especially since we do not yet know about the adverse effects of these particles.
The declared aim of our project is to generate a genetically modified micro-organism, which will help us to decompose polyethylene terephthalate (PET, the main component of plastic bags, plastic bottles, etc..) in a way that it serves as raw material in microbial systems.
Additionally this new raw material should provide a basis for further usable compounds for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
The project is both environmental economics and industrial perspective of interest, because PET is not biodegradable and there is yet no way to recycle it completely.
This leads to an increasing importance of PET waste as a component of global pollution.