A super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within one to two years.

The super-enzyme derived from bacteria that naturally evolved the ability to break down plastic was engineered by linking two separate enzymes, both of which were found in the plastic-eating bug discovered at a Japanese waste site in 2016. The breakthrough enables the full recycling of plastic bottles.

It is currently very difficult to break down plastic bottles into their chemical constituents to make new ones from old, meaning more new plastic is being created from oil each year.

Plastic pollution has contaminated the whole planet and people are now known to consume and breathe microplastic particles.

Combining the plastic-eating enzymes with existing enzymes that break down natural fibres could allow mixed materials e.g. mixed fabrics of polyester and cotton to be fully recycled.

A £1m testing centre is now being built in Portsmouth to progress towards producing the super-enzyme for commercial use.

The new research by scientists at the University of Portsmouth and four US institutions is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Read the article in full at The Guardian