Scientists discover enzyme that breaks down plastic - Planet Ark Environmental Foundation

Scientists discover enzyme that breaks down plastic

By Jessica Hudson  May 10th, 2018

Enzyme that's able to digest soft drink bottles could be used to solve plastic waste.


Plastic takes far too long to decompose in the natural landscape. This, along with the widespread use of plastic materials, many of which aren’t properly recycled, has contributed to too much plastic pollution in our environments. However, an enzyme that is able to efficiently break down plastics may be on the horizon. An evolved enzyme was originally found in nature in Japan and has since been worked on in the laboratory. While studying the enzyme, scientists “accidentally engineered a mutant version that is even better at degrading the plastic than the one that has evolved in nature,” according to a National Geographic article. The enzyme is currently able to digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is what soft drink bottles are made from. Now, the goal is to improve the enzyme’s efficiency and optimize it to be able to consume other types of plastic as well. Modifying enzymes capable of degrading plastic is a positive start to reducing our existing plastic footprint. Hopefully, further development and discoveries will lead to plastics being broken down at an accelerated pace. In the meantime, we must make an effort to reduce plastic use, especially of single use plastic.

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


By Jessica Hudson

Jessica interned at Planet Ark in 2018. Studying Communication and minoring in Environmental Analysis and Policy at Boston University, she spent a trimester in Sydney Australia.

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