…It would be wise to contemplate an axiom of Sir Isaac Newton … for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

…It would be wise to contemplate an axiom of Sir Isaac Newton … for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…

In a happy accident, scientists have created an enzyme that can eat plastic bottles


Walter Einenkel  …..Daily Kos Staff……..Tuesday April 17, 2018 · 9:12 AM PDT


A happy accident has led to a breakthrough in how we may be able to handle some of our global plastic pollution. The Guardian reports on the international research team that made the serendipitous discovery.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

What this means is that this enzyme can be tinkered with even more. The hope is that at some point the enzyme could be adapted to break down plastics at a considerably faster rate than what is possible now.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

But don’t start investing in plastic bottles. At this point the discovery is “a modest” improvement on the enzyme’s ability to break down plastics. We still need to stem our excessive addictions to plastics.


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