A bacterial enzyme that was originally found in compost can be used to make high-quality new bottles
A mutated bacterial enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles in hours, enabling them to be used for recycling has been created by scientists.
This bacterial enzyme, originally discovered within compost, can reduce the bottles to their chemical building blocks that can then be recycled to be used to make new high-quality bottles.
The current recycling technologies usually produce plastic that is only good enough to be remade into materials for clothing and carpets.
Carbios, the company behind this scientific breakthrough, said that they were aiming to implement industrial-scale recycling within five years. They have partnered with major companies including Pepsi and L’Oréal to help fund the development of this new resource.
The new enzyme has been referred to as a ‘major advance’ by independent experts, as billions of tonnes of plastic waste pollute the planet, and pose a particular risk to sea life.
Campaigners have said that reducing the use of plastic is paramount, however the company said that the strong, lightweight material is still very useful and that recycling needs to be part of the solution.
Prof John McGeehan, the director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth has said:
“It makes the possibility of true industrial-scale biological recycling of PET a possibility. This is a very large advance in terms of speed, efficiency and heat tolerance,”
“It represents a significant step forward for true circular recycling of PET and has the potential to reduce our reliance on oil, cut carbon emissions and energy use, and incentivise the collection and recycling of waste plastic.”
Carbios are also making progress in finding biological ways to break down other major types of plastic.
In March, researchers from Germany revealed a bug that feasts on the toxic material polyurethane, and before that researchers had shown that wax moth larvae, usually bred as fish bait, can eat up polythene bags.
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