Could an end to plastic pollution be in sight ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 epSos.de
Scientists have inadvertently created a mutant enzyme capable of breaking down common waste plastics.
In a breakthrough that could prove invaluable in the battle against ocean pollution, scientists studying a type of plastic-eating bacterium found in Japan have managed to produce an enzyme that has proven enormously effective at breaking down PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic.
The achievement was entirely accidental as the team had only tweaked the enzyme in order to learn more about how it had evolved, not to deliberately improve its effectiveness.
"What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock," said study leader Professor John McGeehan of the University of Portsmouth. "It's great and a real finding."
Remarkably, the new enzyme starts to break down plastic within a matter of days.
"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," said 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 | Comments (14)