Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. PET bottles that are recycled have to be cleaned, sorted by colour, then shredded and dried to produce PET flakes. The engineering process is much the same as for enzymes currently being used in bio-washing detergents and in the manufacture of biofuels ― the technology exists,” said McGeehan. For more content and to be part of the “This New World” community, join our Facebook Group .
Gregg Beckham at NREL set to work examining the enzyme in order to map its crystal structure. Could This Plastic-Eating Enzyme Save the Earth From Waste? Wanting to understand how this enzyme evolved and how it worked, the researchers tweaked its molecular structure. The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic , at a waste dump in Japan.
Copyright © 2018 NARRATIVE CONTENT GROUP. But their investigation had an unlikely result — they introduced a mutation to PETase. The scientists in just such a scenario comprise an international team that was working off of a 2016 discovery of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic. Thus, an accidental success was born. The researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. and the U.S.
The new research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, began by determining the precise structure of the enzyme produced by the Japanese bug. Plastic pollution is fast becoming one of the biggest environmental issues of our time. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. We're happy you're here! The result was a new type of enzyme that digests plastic more efficiently than the original.
The enzyme can digest PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is used in many products including clothing fibers and plastic bottles. Their results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “To find an organism that can break this stuff down is really exciting,” McGeehan said. However, currently even those bottles that are recycled can only be turned into opaque fibres for clothing or carpets.
PETase was first detected in the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis , which used the enzyme to munch on plastic in the soil of a PET bottle-recycling facility in Japan, according to the study. Oliver Jones, a chemist from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, tells The Guardian, “Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms. While in no way ready to be let loose to devour our waste, the engineers have already set to work to improve the enzyme further for use industrially to break down plastics.
T hat’s more than 16,000 every second. Scientists have developed an enzyme that can break down plastic bottles — and the creation was a happy accident. The bug produced an enzyme, which the team studied using the Diamond Light Source , an intense beam of X-rays 10 billion times brighter than the sun. The scientists think that enzyme's function in the distant past was to break down a waxy coating on plants.
Scientists have created an enzyme which can digest the plastic used to make these bottles. PET – or polyethylene terephthalate – is the most common plastic used for soft drinks bottles. Earlier work had shown that some fungi can break down PET plastic , which makes up about 20% of global plastic production. Most of these bottles are made from PET, which can take up to 400 years to biodegrade, and many are littering the oceans.
Copyright © 2018 Narrative Content Group . You will also receive a complimentary subscription to the ZDNet's Tech Update Today and ZDNet Announcement newsletters. Dennis Schroeder / NREL Recommended Slideshows 51 In Pictures: The 50 Most Powerful Military Forces in the World 51 Top 50 Highest-grossing Movies of All Time 44 In Pictures: Every U.S. Choose a Membership That's Perfect for You! This is because it is lightweight, shatterproof, easy to mould and colour and cheap to produce.
They say the discovery could offer a solution for millions of tons of plastic bottles made of PET that linger in the environment. But after some gentle manipulation, the team actually improved its ability to eat PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the type of plastic used in drinks bottles. However, even the most voracious plastic-eating enzyme will have a lot of plastic trash to plow through before it goes hungry.
Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. More than 8 million tons of plastic enters the oceans each year. Of the 8.3 million metric tons of plastic that have been produced so far, a mere 9 percent of it has been recycled, researchers in a 2017 study estimated. PET bottles that are currently recycled can only be turned into fibers for clothing and carpets. Can't get enough TreeHugger?
See all of the best photos of the week in these slideshows The scientists made their breakthrough with a little help from serendipity. Deposit return schemes are very successful in some countries. It was hailed as a potential breakthrough at the time. CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated 20,000 plastic bottles are bought worldwide every second. The team found that the enzyme looked similar to one that breaks down cutin, a waxy, protective coating for plants.