Plastic Waste A Lesser Problem Now With Recycling Enzyme ♻️
Plastic Recycling Enzymes ♻️: The future is in better hands when it comes to waste elimination thanks to a recent breakthrough development that can deal with plastic waste in a fast and efficient manner. We suggest that you read the blog to learn more.
Waste – plastic waste, in particular – has become the biggest headache in the world in recent years due to its sheer amount in landfill. Mass production of plastic materials and items obviously do not help in alleviating this global problem.
Did you know that in 2017, Australia alone produced 67 million of tonnes of waste? 12 per cent – a rather large amount – of the waste is classified as plastic waste. And unlike organics, which we have ways on how to biodegrade it the proper way, plastics take a very, VERY long time to break down. It will take centuries for plastic to break down!
However, a recently-produced plastic-eating enzyme developed by engineers may help with this as what can take centuries to accomplish may now take only days or even just hours to do so. With this development, we can potentially say goodbye to plastics lingering in landfill and polluting the land and sea.
Learn more about the recent plastic recycling enzyme development below. Continue reading to learn more.
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Plastic recycling enzyme: main details
As we have mentioned above, an enzyme variant was recently created to rapidly break down plastics that threatens the environment, only needing days, or even just mere hours, to do so. This plastic recycling enzyme was developed by engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, aiming to significantly reduce plastic pollution’s impact to the environment.
Engineers specifically designed this enzyme to supercharge recycling on a large scale, therefore allowing different major industries to reduce their environmental impact by recovering and reusing plastics at the molecular level.
This project mainly focuses on polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic and/or a significant polymer which manufacturers use in producing different kinds of products such as water or soda bottles, peanut butter containers/jars, fruits and vegetable salad packaging and certain fibres and textiles.
Now, the main question is this: is the project a success? The answer to that, of course, is a yes!
The plastic recycling enzyme, developed by the best engineers and scientists available in the University, was able to complete a ‘circular process’ of breaking down the plastic into smaller parts and then chemically putting it back together in as little as 24 hours.
Cockrell School of Engineering and College of Natural Sciences researchers used a machine learning model to produce novel mutations to a natural enzyme called PETase that allows bacteria to break down PET plastics. The model specifically predicts which mutations in these plastic recycling enzymes would accomplish the target of depolymerising post-consumer waste plastic at low temperatures quickly.
As a result of this extensive process, which involved 51 different plastic waste containers, five different polyester fibres and fabrics and water bottles all made from PET, the plastic recycling enzyme’s effectiveness was clearly proven and was named FAST-PETase (functional, active, stable and tolerant PETase).
“This work really demonstrates the power of bringing together different disciplines, from synthetic biology to chemical engineering to artificial intelligence,” said Andrew Ellington, who led the development of the machine learning model, along with his team.
The importance of plastic recycling enzyme
Why can’t normal recycling cut it when it comes to eliminating plastic waste? Of course, it is the most obvious way to cut down on plastic waste. But on a global scale, less than 10 per cent of all plastic has been recycled. It is usually disposed of by being thrown in landfill. Another common method is by burning (i.e., incineration). However, the latter method requires too much energy and funds to spend, not to mention that it exudes noxious gas into the air.
On the flip side, biological solutions such as this plastic recycling enzyme FAST-PETase take much less energy. Only now has there been a way of making the enzyme operate efficiently at low temperatures to make them both portable and affordable at large industrial scale after 15 years of research. FAST-PETase can perform the process at less than 50 degrees Celsius.
What is next?
What is next in line with this development?
The team to develop this plastic recycling enzyme now plan to work on scaling up the enzyme production, to prepare it for industrial and environmental application on real world plastic waste.
The researchers have filed a patent application for the technology and are eying several different uses, with cleaning up landfills and greening high waste-producing industries the most obvious.
But another key potential use is environmental remediation. The team is looking at a number of ways to get the enzymes out into the field to clean up polluted sites.
“When considering environmental cleanup applications, you need an enzyme that can work in the environment at ambient temperature. This requirement is where our tech has a huge advantage in the future,” Alper said.
You can take a look at the findings that were published in the journal Nature.
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