scientists accidentally create a plastic-eating enzyme - polyethylene terephthalate film
For a big breakthrough in the plastic pollution crisis, Japan's garbage dump is an unlikely place.
But as early as 2016, when a group of Japanese scientists screened plastic waste, they found that one of the world's most popular plastics, polybendiester (PET), could break down and "eat" bacteria.
It was considered a potential breakthrough at the time.
But in a new twist, British and American scientists announced that while studying the bacteria, they accidentally created a mutant enzyme that is more effective in breaking down plastic bottles.
The discovery came from a team of scientists at the University of Portsmouth. K.
National Renewable Energy LaboratoryS.
An enzyme produced by Japanese bacteria was examined to learn more about its structure.
By shining a strong beam
The light on it is 10 billion times brighter than the sun, and they can see a single atom.
To better understand how the structure works, they accidentally designed mutant enzymes.
John McGeehan said: "Unexpected discoveries often play an important role in basic scientific research, and our findings here are no exception . " A professor of biology at Portsmouth University and one of the chief scientists for the study.
"This unexpected discovery shows that there is room for further improvement in these enzymes, which brings us closer and closer to recycling the solution.
Piles of discarded plastics.
"Researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday and are now working to further improve the enzyme for use on an industrial scale.
"The engineering process is very similar to the enzyme currently used in biology
"Washing detergents and making biofuels-this technology exists," McGehan said . ".
In the coming years, it is possible to have an industry-viable process of converting pets into other substances, or re-converting them into "original building blocks," he added.
It will be crucial to expand the capacity of the process.
Plastic pollution is rapidly becoming one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. The mass-
The materials produced are everywhere: buy more than 1 million plastic bottles around the world every minute.
More than 16,000 per second
Most of these bottles are made from pets, their biodegradable may take 400, and many bottles are still littering in the ocean.
About 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year.
According to research by the Allen MacArthur Foundation, pets are relatively easy to recycle, but more than half of the pet waste worldwide is not recycled and only 7% of the bottles are recycled into new bottles (
Most people have gone. value products).
Some pet-dependent companies have promised to do more. Coca-
For example, according to Greenpeace, Coke produces more than 100 billion plastic bottles per year, and it promises to increase the recycling content of bottles by 50% by 2020.
But progress has been slow, partly because of the aesthetic concerns of large enterprises about 100 of bottles produced --
Percentage of recycled plastics.
The newly discovered enzyme is expected to recycle plastic bottles into new clear plastic bottles, which will require less raw plastic.
Some environmental activists and scientists say the breakthrough, while promising, is far from enough to solve our pollution crisis.
Wim Soetaert said: "These enzymes do not exist in large quantities in nature, so you need to produce the enzymes first and then add them to PET plastics for degradation, "the director of the Center for Industrial Biotechnology at Ghent University pointed out.
"It could be a slow process.
If you 've gone through the hassle of collecting pet litter, there's obviously a better way to recycle it or burn it for energy.
He believes that the use of commercially available biodegradable plastics will be a better option.
Louise Edge, a senior marine activist at Greenpeace, pointed out that there is an urgent need to change recycling and consumer systems on a larger scale.
"What we really need is a change in the system to reduce the volume of disposable plastic packaging and to ensure that plastic beverage bottles are effectively collected and separated," Edge said . ".
"An enzyme alone will not clean up the complex and extensive legacy of plastic pollution that we have created.
"Correction: the previous version of the story shows that 20,000 plastic bottles are purchased every second in the world.
In fact, this figure is over 16,000.
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