What do vanilla flavor and PET bottles have in common? Although not many at first glance, but scientists at a British university will convince you otherwise. Biologists have genetically engineered bacteria that can convert PET bottles to synthetic vanillin. They invented a unique way to recycle plastic bottles while producing the popular flavor.

PET Bottles in Industry

It is not surprising that PET bottles are widely used in the food industry. Food companies fill alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages into plastic bottles, including water, soda, cola, juices – this list could go on and on.

Photo by Amanda Shepherd on Unsplash

Recycling and the food industry have a lot in common – the food industry uses recyclable packaging. However, a lot of waste, even if recyclable, goes to landfills, where it accumulates uncontrollably. The decomposition time of a PET bottle is 100 years.

Vanillin Made from PET Bottles

Another field where PET bottles can be used is the production of vanilla flavor – synthetic vanillin. The researchers genetically modified E. coli bacteria, which can turn PET bottles into vanillin, a vanilla aroma.

Image by Mumtahina Rahman from Pixabay

Biotechnologist Stephen Wallace of the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues have created genetically engineered E. coli bacteria that can convert terephthalic acids to vanillin. Terephthalic acid is a product formed in the early stages of PET bottle recycling.

The vanilla flavor is one of the most popular and most used flavors, not only for dessert production dessert but also in cosmetics, cleaning products, and pharmacy. According to statistics, around 40,000 tons of vanillin were consumed worldwide in 2018. It is estimated that in 2025, global consumption of vanillin will be 25 thousand tons higher.

Researchers are further refining the new process, believing that over time, their unique method could replace the production of vanillin from chemicals derived from fossil fuels.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/15/scientists-convert-used-plastic-bottles-into-vanilla-flavouring, featured Image by y Dean Moriarty from Pixabay