This 'bacteria cocktail' can eat plastic within weeks

Breaking down plastic using plastic eating bacteria,

that’s what these two young scientists in Hungary are doing.

They’ve developed a bacteria cocktail that consumes any single-use plastic in seven weeks

without prior chemical treatment or processing.

“I'm Liz Madaras, and I'm Krisztina Levay - and we're the co-founders of Poliloop, a Hungarian bio-tech company which has developed plastic eating bacteria.”

The cocktail ingredients are highly secret,

but Poliloop CEO Liz Madaras says if it can be mass produced,

it could mean a significant step in reducing plastic waste globally.

“We saw plastic waste pollution as a very very pertinent issue. So we decided to try to combine biotechnology and chemical engineering to create a media which can actually bring plastics back into the natural life cycle to which they once belonged.”

After two weeks the process produces shreds of plastic.

That then becomes a brown liquid “sludge” by the end of week seven.

Initial lab tests show that the sludge is safe to use as a soil improver.

{Liz Madaras} “The degradation process is very similar to how those leaves disappear from autumn to springtime. A consortia of microbes biodegrades them. And this is what we were doing with our bacteria and fossils based plastics. If it works on a large scale it can make a global impact because the problem with plastics up until now was that they lingered on in the environment for ever. But once we can biodegrade them, bring them back into the natural environment they become part of nature again, become part of the global recycling system not just the human one.”

There are successful attempts globally to degrade plastics, but Poliloop degrades all types of plastics including multilayer packaging and mixed plastic blends.

{Liz Madaras} “There are successful attempts with PET degradation though. But in our case we do all types of plastics from resin identification one through seven and that includes other plastics as well such as multilayer packaging or mixed plastic blends.”

Poliloop now has investment to build their first industrial plant

where they’ll test the degradation on a larger scale.

They’re also experimenting with what their cocktail could do with other types of fossil-based contaminants, such as diesel.

Video Transcript

- Breaking down plastic using plastic-eating bacteria-- that's what these two young scientists in Hungary are doing.

LIZ MADARAS: We have a couple of cocktails here, special mixtures for special things.

- They've developed a bacteria cocktail that consumes any single-use plastic in seven weeks without prior chemical treatment or processing.

LIZ MADARAS: I'm Liz Madaras.

KRISZTINA LEVAY: I'm Krisztina Lévay.

LIZ MADARAS: And we're the co-founders of Poliloop, a Hungarian biotech company, which has developed plastic-eating bacteria.

- The cocktail ingredients are highly secret. But Poliloop's CEO, Liz Madaras, says if it can be mass produced, it could mean a significant step in reducing plastic waste globally.

LIZ MADARAS: We saw plastic waste pollution as a very, very pertinent issue. So we decided to try to combine biotechnology and chemical engineering to create a media, which can actually bring plastics back into the natural lifecycle to which they once belonged.

- After two weeks, the process produces shreds of plastic.

LIZ MADARAS: This is how it's going to look like in two weeks.

- That then becomes a brown liquid sludge by the end of week seven.

- In seven weeks time, it goes to this-- this sludge, which is the end product of our process.

- Initial lab tests show that the sludge is safe to use as a soil improver.

LIZ MADARAS: The degradation process is very similar to how those leaves disappear from-- from autumn until springtime. A consortia of microbes biodegrades them. And this is what we're doing with our bacteria and fossil-based plastics. If it works on a large scale, it can make a global impact, because the problem with plastics up until now was that they lingered on in the environment forever. But once we can biodegrade them, bring them back into the natural environment, they become part of nature again, become part of the global recycling system-- not just the human one.

- They're are successful attempts globally to degrade plastic. But Poliloop degrades all types of plastic, including multilayer packaging and mixed plastic blends.

LIZ MADARAS: There are successful attempts with PET degradation though. But in our case, we do all types of plastics, from resin identification 1 through 7, and that includes other plastics as well, such as multilayer packaging or mixed plastic blend.

- Poliloop now has investment to build their first Industrial plant, where they'll test the degradation on a larger scale. They're also experimenting with what they're cocktail could do with other types of fossil-based contaminants, such as diesel.