Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles, Created By Accident
What's Going On Here?
Scientists have accidentally created a mutant enzyme that can break down single-use plastic drinks bottles. The enzyme could help solve the world's plastic pollution crisis and also slash the need to produce new plastic!
What Does This Mean?
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is a type of plastic that is commonly used to make single-use plastic bottles. It is estimated that it takes up to 1,000 years to biodegrade naturally.
Back in 2016, at a waste facility in Japan, bacteria was discovered that had naturally evolved to eat plastic. Yep, some bacteria think plastic is fantastic! This prompted scientists at the University of Portsmouth (UK) to begin research on the enzyme PETase, which resulted in them accidentally improving it. This engineered PETase reduced the breakdown time of the plastic from 1,000 years to just a few days.
The hope is that this new plastic-eating enzyme could allow us to close the loop for plastic recycling. By completely reversing the manufacturing process and reducing the polyesters back down to their building blocks ready to be used again and again.
Why Should We Care?
Every minute around 1 million single-use plastic bottles are sold globally, with only 14% of them being recycled.
On Sunday 22nd April (this Sunday) Earth Day is being celebrated across the globe to raise awareness for environmental issues. This year their campaign is to End Plastic Pollution. Check it out for events near you and how to get involved.
Understand today's top environmental news stories in just 3 minutes with curious.earth's weekly newsletter, direct to your inbox.
We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!