Plastic debris represents a big problem for the world, and scientists have often been searching for ways to get rid of it. Plastic needs hundreds of years to break down naturally.
But that might not be the case anymore. According to wionews.com, scientists from Germany discovered a very powerful enzyme known as polyester hydrolase (PHL7) that’s able to break down Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in just a few hours.
PHL7 can destroy plastic in just 16 hours
The new enzyme was found by the researchers in a German cemetery as it was eating the compost. After analyzing PHL7 in a lab, the researchers found that it’s able to destroy PET in a proportion of 90% in only about 16 hours. What’s perhaps even more interesting is that the newfound enzyme doesn’t even need any pre-treatment to do its job.
Wolfgang Zimmermann, a microbiologist from Leipzig University in Germany, explained as ScienceAlert.com quotes:
The enzyme discovered in Leipzig can make an important contribution to establishing alternative energy-saving plastic recycling processes,
The biocatalyst now developed in Leipzig has been shown to be highly effective in the rapid decomposition of used PET food packaging and is suitable for use in an environmentally friendly recycling process in which new plastic can be produced from the decomposition products.
It is thought that every day, 8 million pieces of plastic pollution end up in the Earth’s oceans. Also, every year, about 12 million tonnes of plastic reach the ocean. Plastic pollution affects the Earth’s environment and, therefore, both animals and humans.
Interestingly enough, 11% of household waste is usually plastic. Plastic bottles represent 40%. Therefore, the subject of plastic waste polluting the Earth surely deserves a lot more attention than it already gets.
The new findings regarding the enzyme were published in ChemSusChem.