Technology Create a bacterial enzyme that devours plastic in hours

Create a bacterial enzyme that devours plastic in hours

Science

03:56 GMT 04.04.2020Short url

Scientists at the industrial development company Carbios created a mutant bacterial enzyme that could revolutionize the recycling of plastic, since it is capable of breaking it down in a matter of hours.

Thus, these enzymes are able to reduce to basic elements the polyethylene terephthalate —Best known by its initials PET—, a type of plastic used in the manufacture of beverage containers. These same elements can be reused to produce new bottles.

It is an important detail, since the plastic recycled by means of the already conventional thermomechanical processing it cannot be reused for new packaging due to its low quality. Instead, it is used to make footwear and rugs.

According to the study, which was published in the journal Nature, Carbios scientists collaborated on this project with industrial giants such as Pepsi and L´Oreal. The new enzyme was baptized as PET hydrolase and is capable of breaking down up to 90% of the polymers of this type of plastic in just ten hours.

Interestingly, this enzyme was found in a pile of composted leaves in 2012. “It was completely forgotten, but it turned out to be the best,” said Alain Marty, the science leader at Carbios.

Another aspect to highlight in the new enzyme is that it offers a very low recycling cost. In fact, researchers say that manufacturing the new plastic would cost 25 times more than recycling with PET hydrolase.

Meanwhile, scientists hope to be able to test the new enzyme’s industrial and commercial potential in 2021 and launch full-scale manufacturing between 2024 and 2025.

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