Plastic pollution is one of the world’s biggest environmental problems. For this reason, millions of marine life are lost every year and epidemics are increasing due to pollution of resources.
British scientists have developed a super enzyme that speeds up the recycling of plastic by 6 times. The super enzyme can break down plastic found in waste such as PET bottles, clothes and bags, which can take hundreds of years to break down in nature, within days.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the UK have redesigned a plastic-eating enzyme called PETase, combining it with an enzyme called MHETease to speed up the process.
The super enzyme will play an important role in the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common thermoplastic used in disposable beverage bottles, carpets and clothing.
Plastics take hundreds of years to dissolve in nature. However, the researchers explained that the super enzyme and polyethylene terephthalate can break it down into building blocks in a matter of days.
Speaking to CNN, John McGeehan, director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth, explained that this latest development represents a major turning point towards the use of enzymes to recycle plastic and reduce plastic pollution.
McGeehan said: “We were quite surprised that PETease worked so well. Successful developments mean that existing pet can be recycled instead of using fossil fuels to create new plastic. This will bring with it a great energy saving, ” he said.
HOW DOES THE SUPER ENZYME ACT ON PLASTIC?
The super enzyme consists of a combination of two enzymes, PETease and MHETease. Binding the two enzymes together accelerated the dissolution rate of the plastic by 6 times. McGeehan used the Diamond Light Source, a device that uses X-rays 10 billion times brighter than the sun, to map the molecular structure of Mhetase and see individual atoms.
McGeehan said the researchers were able to design the new super enzyme by binding MHETase and PETase, effectively combining DNA enzymes to form a single long chain.
The technique is widely used in the biofuel industry, which uses enzymes to break down cellulases, but McGeehan stressed it was the first time the two enzymes had been combined to break down plastics.
The full results of the study were published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
PLASTIC POLLUTION TO TRIPLE BY 2040
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems in the world that needs to be solved urgently. According to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the volume of plastic in the oceans is expected to nearly triple to 29 million tons by 2040. That means 50 kilograms of plastic per square meter of every coastline on the planet.
ACCELERATED MELTING AT THE POLES
On the other hand, in glaciers and snow-covered areas, more than 80 thousand tons of microplastics reached and these parts absorbed the heat of the Sun, increasing the melting at the poles.
MILLIONS OF SEA CREATURES DIE EVERY YEAR
The particles contain toxic chemicals and harmful microbes, and millions of marine creatures that swallow them every year lose their lives. In addition, people who consume these marine creatures can also have various health problems. However, the effect of microplastics on nsan health is not yet fully known.