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Microbial Fermentation of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Plastic Waste for the Production of Chemicals or Electricity

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Ideonella sakaiensis ( I. sakaiensis ) can grow on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as the major carbon and energy source. Previous work has shown that PET conversion in the presence of oxygen released carbon dioxide and water while yielding adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through oxidative phosphorylation. This study demonstrates that I. sakaiensis is a facultative anaerobe that ferments PET to the feedstock chemicals acetate and ethanol in the absence of oxygen. In addition to PET, the pure monomer ethylene glycol (EG), the intermediate product ethanol, and the carbohydrate fermentation test substance maltose can also serve as fermenting substrates. Co-culturing of I. sakaiensis with the electrogenic and acetate-consuming Geobacter sulfurreducens produced electricity from PET or EG. This newly identified plastic fermentation process by I. sakaiensis pro-vides thus a novel biosynthetic route to produce high-value chemicals or electricity from plastic waste streams.

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