in the effort to fight against plastic pollution, Scientists have created a ‘super-enzyme’ that degrades plastic six times faster than its predecessor to enable the full recycling of plastic bottles and potentially mixed-fabric clothes.
The super-enzyme was created by mixing two separate enzymes, which were found in a plastic-eating bug discovered at a Japanese waste site in 2016.
Two years after the discovery enzymes, a team of researchers revealed an engineered version of the first enzyme called PETase that could break down plastic in a few days.
In its latest studies, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Portsmouth has re-engineered the second enzyme, which doubles the speed, meaning plastic can be broken down six times faster than with PETase alone.
Our scientists @McGeehanJohn @CEI_UoP who developed the ‘plastic eating’ enzyme have now created an enzyme ‘cocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster @UoPPlastics https://t.co/iPlhQFQCdn— University of Portsmouth (@portsmouthuni) September 29, 2020
During an interview with CNN, Prof. John McGeehan, lead co-author and director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth told the publishment that this latest development represents “a huge step towards using enzymes to recycle plastic and reduce plastic pollution.”
“We were actually quite surprised it worked so well,” said McGeehan, although he underlined that the process is “still way too slow” to be commercially viable.
He went ahead to explain that researchers have received funding to carry out further experiments, and successful developments could mean existing PET could be recycled instead of using fossil fuels to create new plastic.
“We’re looking at huge energy savings,” said McGeehan.