Plastic pollution is everywhere. It''s becoming increasingly apparent as microplastics that contaminate nearly everything, even in the stomachs of dead whales. This is because a lot of plastic is simply not biodegradable and has a long term life.
Researchers around the world have developed innovative techniques such as reusing plastic into building blocks and even turning it into useful oils. However, the problem persists on a large scale.
An enzyme type that grinds hard-to-degrade plastics
According to a statement from The University of Texas at Austin, engineers and scientists have come up with an innovative approach that may just alleviate our plastic fears once and for all. The solution takes the form of anenzyme technology that removes environment-throttling plastics that usually takes years to degrade in just a few hours to days.
According to Hal Alper, a professor at the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at Austin, the possibilities for utilizing this leading-edge recycling process are endless.
This provides corporations from every industry the opportunity to take a lead in recycling their goods. Through these more sustainable enzyme approaches, we can begin to envision a true circular plastics economy.
Results in as little as 24 hours
The new process consists of plastics completely broken down to monomers in as little as 24 hours. The project focuses on polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a polymer that makes up 12% of global waste. The enzyme is so effective that it can even work at ambient temperature, making it suitable for a variety of applications.
The researchers are now preparing for industrial and environmental applications to improve enzyme production. These will include landfill cleanup initiatives, the greening of high waste-producing industries, and even environmental remediation. The authors'' study was published in the journal Nature.
Despite their high resilience to pH and temperature variations, FAST-PETase is capable of delivering a robust and effective PET hydrolase that is fully integrated in its manufacturing environment. This technique can be used in tandem with FAST-PETase and resynthesizing PET from the recovered monomers. Together, we demonstrate a successful enzymatic plastic recycling program at the industrial scale.