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Scientists Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic


Do Mutants Really Exist? Yes, and they’re helping to save the planet.

An international group of scientists have come across accidentally a mutant enzyme that breaks and eats plastic bottles, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The creation is actually a discovery of the mutant came by accident when the group, led by Professor John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth, UK, released a news about a bacterium they found in a waste dump in Japan in 2016. The bacterium seems to have naturally evolved to eat plastic, and the scientists put in efforts to help in breaking down polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, the plastic that we use in drink bottles. The break-down process quickens just in a matter of a couple days, not like the centuries that it required in oceans to destroy.

“What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” McGeehan told the Guardian. “It’s great and a real finding.”

In 2017, the researchers had located around 38 million pieces of plastic waste on an uninhabited South Pacific island. Figures from the same year show that approximately a million are used around the world every minute and it is predicted that the number could raise to 20 percent by 2021.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” McGeehan said. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

“You are always up against the fact that oil is cheap, so virgin PET is cheap,” said McGeehan. “It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of that stuff, rather than even try to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these.”

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Scientists Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic

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