Modified Enzyme Can Eat Plastic
How It Works|Issue 112

Could this new discovery help solve our global plastic problem?

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth, UK, and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have engineered an enzyme that can digest some of the most common and polluting plastics.

Since its rise in popularity in the 1950s, we have produced about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. Polyethene terephthalate (PET) is just one of many plastics and takes hundreds of years to degrade, meaning this enzyme could be the answer to a major environmental problem. The enzyme, known as PETase, was recently discovered to naturally digest PET. While testing and 3D modelling the enzyme, the team unintentionally engineered the PETase to break down the plastic at a much faster rate than it would naturally.

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