New super enzyme eats plastic bottles six times faster

This is new MHETase – PETase enzyme. Jointly developed by U.K and U.S scientists. It was inspired by Japanese.

A super enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six time faster, than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two.

The super enzyme derived from bacteria that naturally evalvuated the ability to eat plastic, enables the full recycling of the bottles.

Scientists believe combining it with enzymes that break down cotton could also allow mixed fabric clothing to be recycled.

Today, millions of tonnes of such clothing is either dumbed in landfill or incinerated.

Plastic pollution has contaminated the whole planet, from the Arctic to the deepest oceans, and people are now known to consume and breathe microplastic particules.

The super enzyme was engineered by linking two separate enzymes, both of which were found in the plastic eating bug discovered at a Japanese waste site in 2016.

The researchers revealed an engineered version of the first enzyme in 2018, which started breaking down the plastic in a few days.

But the super enzyme gets to work six times faster. “When we linked the enzymes, rather unexpectedly, we got a dramatic increase in activity”, said Prof John MCGeehan, at the University of protsmouth, UK.

This is a trajectory towards trying to make faster enzymes that are more industrialy relevant.

The new super enzyme works at room temperature, and MCGeehan said combining different approaches could speed progress towards commerical use: ” if we can make better, faster enzyme by linking them together and provide them to companies like carbios, and work in partnership, we could start doing this within the next year or two”.

The 2018 work hard determined that the structure of one enzyme, called PETase , can attack the hard, crystalline surface of plastic bottles.

They found, by accident that one mutant version worked 20% faster.

The new study analysed a second enzyme also found in the Japanese bacteria that doubles the speed of the breakdown of the chemical groups liberated by the first enzyme.

Bacteria that breakdown natural polymers like cellulose have evolved this twin approach over millions of years.

The Scientists thought by connecting the two enzymes together, it might increase the speed of degradation, and enable them to work more closely together.

The linked suepr enzyme would be impossible for a bacterium to create, as the molecules would be too large.

So the Scientists connected the two enzyme in the laboratory and saw a further tripling of the speed.