United Kingdom pledges new funding to battle plastic pollution

17 April, 2018, 05:53 | Author: Wade Massey
  • United Kingdom pledges new funding to battle plastic pollution

Scientists have accidentally developed a plastic-eating enzyme that may be used to combat one of the world's worst pollution problems.

A study, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may result in a recycling solution to millions of tonnes of plastic bottles, made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which now persists for hundreds of years in the environment.

Tests showed the lab-made mutant had a supercharged ability to break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), one of the most popular forms of plastic which is used in 70 per cent of bottles for soft drinks, fruit juices and mineral waters.

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch said: "National Geographic is a world leader in science and exploration with expertise, knowledge and credibility that only comes from spending over a century protecting our planet".

For example, the Department for International Development will fund pilot programmes in up to three Commonwealth developing countries to tackle waste from cities that often ends up in waterways. "Being able to see the inner workings of this biological catalyst provided us with the blueprints to engineer a faster and more efficient enzyme".

The scientists generated 3-D imagery to understand how the enzyme works.

United Kingdom pledges new funding to battle plastic pollution

They used this 3D information to understand how it works, and during this study, they inadvertently engineered an enzyme that is better still at degrading the plastics than the one that evolved in nature.

Japanese researchers believe the bacterium evolved fairly recently in a waste recycling centre, since plastics were not invented until the 1940s.

"That's really exciting because that means that there's potential to optimise the enzyme even further".

"Few could have predicted that in the space of 50 years, single-use plastics such as drink bottles would be found washed up on beaches across the globe", said McGeehan.

According to John McGeehan, a professor at the University of Portsmouth, UK who led the research, "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".

The researchers worked with scientists at Diamond Light Source (DLS) in the United Kingdom, deploying a synchrotron that uses intense beams of X-rays 10 billion times brighter than the sun to act as a microscope powerful enough to see individual atoms.

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