Happy Accident? Scientists Accidentally Improve Enzyme That Eats Plastic

Scientists working with a bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic tweaked the enzyme and may have made it even better at breaking down the PET plastic used in soda bottles. Researchers discovered first discovered the bacterium at a waste dump in Japan and the tweaks they made could enable full recycling of bottles for the first time.

The mutant enzyme only takes a few days to start breaking down plastic, which is much quicker than the hundreds of years it takes the oceans to do it. And researchers are optimistic they can speed up this process on a large scale.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” explains lead researcher John McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

Source: The Guardian

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