Vanilla Extract, a High-Priced Industrial Raw Material, is Extracted from Waste Plastic Bottles for the First Time
Waste plastic bottles can be used to extract vanilla extract, a high-priced industrial raw material.
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It is no longer news to recycle plastic bottles and use PET bottle yarn to make clothes and shoes. The latest British research shows that recycled plastic can be made into vanilla extract, which can upgrade plastic bottle waste and turn it into a profitable industrial raw material.
In June 2021, the journal Green Chemistry published a new study. In 2018, scientists accidentally created a mutant enzyme that can directly decompose PET polyester (polyethylene terephthalate), the raw material of plastic bottles. ), which becomes its smallest molecule, terephthalic acid (TA), and then further transforms TA into vanilla extract through microbial engineering.
Vanilla extract is of great commercial value and accounts for the bulk of flavor raw materials. It is widely used in the food and beauty industries, and is often added to medicines, processed foods or various cleaning products, cosmetics, etc. At present, approximately 85% of vanilla extract in the world is synthesized from petrochemical raw materials, far exceeding the supply of natural vanilla beans.
This is the first time that scientists have successfully used waste plastic to extract the valuable chemical vanilla extract.
"In the future, it will have an exciting impact on the circular economy," said Joanna Sadler, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh who is involved in technology development.
Stephen Wallace, also from the University of Edinburgh, also mentioned that this research has overturned the world’s perception of plastic waste—intractable waste. “But our research shows that plastic bottles can be used as a new type of waste. Carbon resources, and high-priced products can be made from them."

The scale will be expanded in the future so that more plastics can be recycled and reused
Next, this group of scientists will further optimize the technology and increase the conversion rate of plastic into vanilla extract from the current 79%. They will also be committed to expanding the scale of technology to transform a larger amount of plastic, or to extract other flavor materials from it.

The new technology allows plastic bottles that were originally recycled at low prices to be upgraded to more profitable raw materials. This will also affect the overall industry and make the recycling and reuse of plastic bottles more efficient and attractive.

Ellis Crawford, the publishing editor of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said he was amazed that the research team made good use of microbial science to develop cyclic sustainability, "a beautiful demonstration of the strengths of green chemistry. , Using microorganisms to turn waste plastics that are harmful to the environment into important commodities."