Texas Scientists Have Created An Enzyme That Breaks Down Non-Biodegradable Plastics In 24 Hours

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Texas Scientists Have Created An Enzyme That Breaks Down Non-Biodegradable Plastics In 24 Hours

Scientists at the University of Texas have made a huge breakthrough in the fight against plastic waste by creating an enzyme that eats through plastics.


The discovery was published in the academic journal 'Nature' and demonstrates how the newly created enzyme can break down plastics in a matter of hours, plastics that would otherwise take centuries to decay and which pose a huge risk to animal and plant life.


The project focused on polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used in everything from drinks containers to food packaging and which poses a huge environmental risk. In total, PET makes up around 12% of all global waster products.


The enzyme works by continually breaking down the plastic into smaller and smaller pieces. The enzyme itself was created using artificial intelligence to 'think up' mutations to a naturally occurring enzyme called PETase that allows bacteria to degrade PET plastics.


McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering professor at UT Austin, Hal Alper, said of the breakthrough:


"The possibilities are endless across industries to leverage this leading-edge recycling process. Beyond the obvious waste management industry, this also provides corporations from every sector the opportunity to take a lead in recycling their products. Through these more sustainable enzyme approaches, we can begin to envision a true circular plastics economy."


Adding:


"When considering environmental clean-up applications, you need an enzyme that can work in the environment at ambient temperature. This requirement is where our tech has a huge advantage in the future."


While Andrew Ellington, professor at the Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, who helped build the artificial intelligence used in the project, added:


"This work really demonstrates the power of bringing together different disciplines, from synthetic biology to chemical engineering to artificial intelligence."


Plastic waste is one of the current greatest threats to the environment as billions of items are disposed of each year, which find themselves in the rivers and oceans. These plastics, which remain present for years, then kill wildlife and break down the food chain through prey to predator poisoning.



[Based on reporting by: University of Texas News]


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Thinking Humanity: Texas Scientists Have Created An Enzyme That Breaks Down Non-Biodegradable Plastics In 24 Hours
Texas Scientists Have Created An Enzyme That Breaks Down Non-Biodegradable Plastics In 24 Hours
Scientists at the University of Texas have made a huge breakthrough in the fight against plastic waste by creating an enzyme that eats through plastic
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