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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Treehugger Tuesday

From "Mother Nature Network":

This accidental discovery could help solve our plastic pollution crisis
Mary Jo DiLonardo
April 17, 2018, 2:11 p.m.

Scientists have developed an enzyme that can break down plastic bottles — and the creation was a happy accident.

An international team of researchers made the discovery while studying a natural enzyme that was believed to have evolved to eat plastic in a waste recycling center in Japan.

The researchers modified the enzyme to analyze its structure, but instead accidentally engineered an enzyme that was even better at breaking down the plastic used for soft drink bottles, polyethylene terephthalate or PET.

"Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception," said lead researcher, professor John McGeehan of the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., in a statement.

"Although the improvement is modest, this unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics."

The new enzyme starts breaking down the plastic in just a few days. But the researchers are working to improve the enzyme so it breaks down plastics even more quickly. They say the discovery could offer a solution for millions of tons of plastic bottles made of PET that linger in the environment. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.

Read the entire article here.

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