Mutant Bacterial Enzyme Can Break Down Plastic in Hours and Enables High-Quality Recycling

By: | April 12th, 2020

Scientists have discovered a ‘mutant bacterial enzyme’ that breaks down plastic bottles for recycling in couple of hours.  Recently this research has been published in the journal Nature.

We all are aware of how plastic pollution is affecting our lands, waterways, and oceans. 

But this latest discovery could be a game changer

Our existing recycling technology is capable of producing low quality plastics mostly used for certain items, like sweaters and carpets.

However this enzyme can not only break down plastic bottles in hours, but could be reused to make high-quality new bottles.

Scientists had first discovered this enzyme in a compost heap of leaves eight years ago. They found this enzyme can reduce the plastic bottles to simple chemical elements. These chemical elements could later be reused to make brand new bottles.

Alain Marty from the Université de Toulouse, said, “This highly efficient, optimized enzyme outperforms all PET hydrolases reported so far,”

“It had been completely forgotten, but it turned out to be the best,”

Faster and more efficient recycling of plastic bottles:

The enzyme is capable of breaking down 90 percent of PET polymers in only ten hours. The new enzyme is not only fast but is also extremely cost effective to produce.

Marty said, “We are currently piloting the process and we are the first company to bring this technology to the market,”

“We will start building a demonstration plant in a few weeks. This plant will start-up in Q2 2021 to generate process data to be able to license our process end of 2020, beginning of 2023. Our first licensee, very likely a plastic producer, will start-up their own plant operating our technology end of 2024, beginning. of 2025.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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