The Earth is becoming more and more polluted with plastic waste that does not naturally decompose or rot away. Microscopic bits of our garbage flow within the waters that suffocates both plant and animal life.
Scientists throughout the world have been conducting research to rid of this menace – one group of scientists may have “accidentally” found the most practical cure to the world’s plastic epidemic by creating a mutated enzyme that feeds on plastic bottles and similar trash.
They discovered a new type of bacteria which can be turned into a plastic eating enzyme with a few tweaks and it starts breaking down plastic in a very short time.
A Happy Accident
Scientists were investigating a unique bacteria type found in Japan’s garbage dump and found it to produce a special enzyme that was capable of breaking down cutin – a polymer produced naturally by plants.
The researchers made some tweaks and were surprised to find that the bacteria improved its ability to digest polymer and became capable to reduce polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as well. PET is used to make plastic containers such as bottles and bags. Prof. John McGeehan, the lead researcher told the Guardian,
What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock. It’s great and a real finding.
Moreover, this enzyme also reverts PET to its original components. It starts breaking down plastic in a few days and does it much faster than it happens naturally. The scientists believe that they can further improve this enzyme and catalyze the process even more.
Currently, the world is producing more plastic than it is recycling and most of it ends up in the ocean harming fish and surrounding biodiversity. McGeehan added,
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. It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.
Scientists have developed many ways to recycle plastic by turning into clothing and sheets. Biodegradable plastic is also a thing, however, the new enzyme could mean ridding the world of plastic waste for good.