M3 Features

Bengali scientist shows the way for plastic-free future

December 2, 2013

A Bengali scientist has made a path-breaking discovery that has the potential to free the city from the plastic 'noose'.

Devjani Banerjee, who was born in the city, has identified three species of bacteria that can degenerate plastics in days. Laboratory studies over, Banerjee is now getting ready to conduct field trials that will actually use waste from landfill sites to check the potency of these bacteria in non-controlled atmosphere.

The road to success

The assistant professor of biochemistry at A&R Patel Institute of Integrated study & Research in Biotechnology and Allied Sciences (ARIBAS) in Anand, Gujarat, made the breakthrough with her PG doctorate student Chandni Patel and former PhD student Tejas Gohil.

“We have been able to successfully isolate three species of highly potent bacteria — two from Enterobacterceae family and another from Microccaceae. They contain an enzyme that act on the hydrocarbon chain of plastics and breaks them down. The former belongs to the same family that causes gut infection while the latter is omnipresent,” said the scientist.

The challenge now is to see how these bacteria perform in the presence of other bacteria at the landfill site, under conditions of varying temperatures, rain, soil type and waste type. This will be the next stage of her research. Banerjee now wants to isolate the genes in the bacteria species and mingle it to produce a clone that is more efficient but less pathogenic so that they can be safely released in dump sites.

A greener future

If the field trials succeed, Banerjee and her team can delve a body blow to plastic’s immortality claim. Banerjee, who is now trying to mop up funds for field trials, may have a solution in store for the monumental plastic waste problem facing Kolkata.

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