Madrid – Plastic bottles take centuries to degrade, but now a new enzyme created by chance in a laboratory brings new hope to put an end to this harmful contamination, according to a study published by the PNAS magazine.
A group of scientists designed that enzyme that is capable of digesting some of the most common polluting plastics, which “provides a potential solution to one of the biggest environmental problems in the world,” according to a statement from the University of Portsmouth (United Kingdom). .
This discovery, in which the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NRLE) of the US Department of Energy, can lead to a recycling solution for millions of tons of plastic bottles made of polyethylene terftalate (PET).
The new enzyme is also capable of degrading polyethylene-furanoate (PEF), a bio-based material that begins to be used as a substitute for glass beer bottles.
Professors John McGeehan of the University of Portsmouth and Gregg Beckham of NREL deciphered the crystalline structure of PETasa, a recently discovered enzyme, and used that information obtained in 3D to understand how it works.
However, during that process they designed by chance a new enzyme that is even better than PETasa (created by nature) to degrade the plastic, explain the note.
The researchers are now working on further improving the enzyme so that it can be used industrially to degrade the plastic in a short time.
The use of plastic became widespread in the 1960s and then “few could have foreseen” that large spots of this material would be floating in the oceans or being washed away on beaches around the world, “said McGeehan.
The professor recalled that “we can all play a significant role” to deal with the problem of plastics, especially the scientific community, which must use “all the technology at its disposal to develop real solutions.”