Technology

An enzyme that destroys plastic bottles

An enzyme that can destroy one of the most widely used plastics, PET (polyethylene terepththalate), was created … by spores of British and American scientists.

This achievement will help the future of the fight against pollution on land and water, as it will for the first time facilitates the complete breakdown and recycling million tons of plastics, in particular bottles from PET (which is the most common), which currently remains for hundreds of years in environment. The new enzyme begins to break up the plastic in just a few days, much faster than nature.

The researchers, led by Professor John McKayn of the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, who published the journal in the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), were studying the natural enzyme PETase of a bacterium which had been discovered in 2016 in Japan and which PET food itself eats.

Incidentally, as acknowledged researchers found a way -with the addition of some amino acids’ through biotechnology to modify the enzyme so it can be much more effective to “devour” the PET.

Scientists are already working to further improve the modified enzyme, so that it can be harnessed on a massive industrial scale and at a faster rate to break up plastics. Indeed, they have already found that the mutant enzyme can also “eat” PEF (polyethylene furandicarboxylate), a bioplastic substitute for PET.

PET was created in the 1940s and has not been in nature for a long time, but huge quantities of plastic have flooded the seas all over the world, as there are many plastic waste. About one million plastic bottles are sold every minute in the world, but only 14% are recycled. But also for this recycling is not so perfect that the same plastic can be used again to make new transparent plastic bottles.