Scientists have produced a mutant enzyme that can break down plastic within hours for recycling. It is stated that the new enzyme is an efficient and low cost solution against plastic waste pollution.
Researchers at industrial recycling company Carbios have developed a mutant bacterial enzyme that can break down plastic bottles for recycling in just a few hours. Enzyme can separate PET plastic bottles into chemical composites and make them reusable to make new bottles.
Recycled plastics, which normally undergo a thermomechanical treatment, are not of high quality and are mostly used in other products such as clothing and carpets. The newly produced PET hydrolase enzyme can break down 90% of PET polymers in just 10 hours.
Low cost, efficient solution for recycling: Mutant Enzyme
The study started with the screening of 100,000 microorganisms, including the leaf compost beetle, which was first discovered in 2012. Carbios worked with the biotechnology company Novozymes to produce the new enzyme using fungi. Scientists analyzed the enzyme produced and mutated to improve the ability to disintegrate PET plastic from which beverage bottles are made.
It is stated that the cost of the enzyme is only 4% of the cost of plastics made from oil. “This highly efficient, optimized enzyme performs better than all PET hydrolases ever reported,” the article published in the journal Nature. The new discovery will also prevent increased plastic pollution that threatens the world and the climate.
Carbios said it aims to recycle on an industrial scale in the next five years. The company has partnered with big companies like Pepsi and L’Oréal to accelerate the development of the enzyme. Independent experts call the new enzyme a huge advance.