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Waste plastic in oceans  cheers to the enzyme cocktail | Upload General

Plastic In Oceans: Cheers To The Enzyme Cocktail

by: Sharai Hoekema
plastic in oceans  cheers to the enzyme cocktail | Upload

Remember those scientists who discovered this marvelous little plastic-eating enzyme, better known as PETase? Are those crazy bits capable of literally eating the much dreaded PET-based materials? No? Well, some scientists found and reproduced an enzyme that is capable of eating plastic. There, you are up to speed.

PETase As PET’s Worst Nightmare

Now those guys are back - and they have gone next level. They discovered another enzyme that they threw together with their original enzyme is an enzyme cocktail that can digest plastic up to six times faster. This new enzyme was found in the same group of bacteria that enjoys hanging around groups of debris in our oceans and landfills. When combined with PETase, it has proven to be even faster in breaking down plastic.

A quick refresher. PETase is capable of breaking down polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET, into its core parts. What this means could be groundbreaking - as it allows us to create a closed recycling loop for plastics, effectively reducing plastic pollution and pushing back greenhouse gases associated with PET production.

plastic in ocean,  PET,  bottle

PET is used in pretty much everything around us. It can be found in our drinks bottles, clothes, or carpets, to name a few. And as we discard it, it continues to exist all around us. Plastic does not really break down, or well, does so rather slowly. It takes hundreds of years in a usual setting. This is why PETase is so revolutionary. It can do this job in a matter of days and is extremely low-energy, while it can be produced in a lab setting. So, a triple win.

Recommended: Microplastics In Oceans: Is It Harming Us?

Meet MHETase: The Partner In Crime

Make that a quadruple win, now that a counterpart has been discovered. The PETase’s partner in crime has been given the equally catchy name MHETase, and when the two are combined, they provide even bigger benefits. By putting them together, the PET breakdown speed is doubled. Pretty good already, but if you go that extra mile and engineer a connection between the two, a so-called ‘super-enzyme’ is created that increases this speed threefold. 

One of the lead scientists is Professor John McGeehan from the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth, who worked together with his colleague Dr. Gregg Beckham from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. As McGeehan explains, “Gregg and I were chatting about how PETase attacks the surface of the plastics and MHETase chops things up further, so it seemed natural to see if we could use them together, mimicking what happens in nature."

“Our first experiments showed that they did indeed work better together, so we decided to try to physically link them as two Pac-men joined by a piece of string. It took a great deal of work on both sides of the Atlantic. Still, it was worth the effort -- we were delighted to see that our new chimeric enzyme is up to three times faster than the naturally evolved separate enzymes, opening new avenues for further improvements."

Cheers To The Enzyme Cocktail 

The enzyme cocktail basically digests PET plastic and excrements its ‘building blocks,’ so to speak. These building blocks break down much faster and give rise to a cycle where plastic can be made and re-used in a never-ending loop. This could not just solve the plastic problem; it could also be a major cut in the use of gas and oil. That certainly sounds like something worth their effort.

PETase enzymes break down PET molecules into monomeric building blocks.
PETase enzymes break down PET molecules into monomeric building blocks.

After the researchers’ original work with PETase was published, many heralded it as the next big thing in global plastic pollution while noting that it would not suffice in and of itself. PETase was not fast enough to offer commercial viability to the process. Now that the second enzyme has been added to speed things up, it seems like a major step toward becoming a real solution.

Before you go!

Recommended: Solar Panel Recycling: Photovoltaics Rebirth

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Plastic In Oceans: Cheers To The Enzyme Cocktail

Remember those scientists who discovered this marvelous little plastic-eating enzyme, better known as PETase? Are those crazy bits capable of literally eating the much dreaded PET-based materials? No? Well, some scientists found and reproduced an enzyme that is capable of eating plastic. There, you are up to speed. PETase As PET’s Worst Nightmare Now those guys are back - and they have gone next level. They discovered another enzyme that they threw together with their original enzyme is an enzyme cocktail that can digest plastic up to six times faster. This new enzyme was found in the same group of bacteria that enjoys hanging around groups of debris in our oceans and landfills. When combined with PETase, it has proven to be even faster in breaking down plastic. A quick refresher. PETase is capable of breaking down polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET, into its core parts. What this means could be groundbreaking - as it allows us to create a closed recycling loop for plastics, effectively reducing plastic pollution and pushing back greenhouse gases associated with PET production. PET is used in pretty much everything around us. It can be found in our drinks bottles, clothes, or carpets, to name a few. And as we discard it, it continues to exist all around us. Plastic does not really break down, or well, does so rather slowly. It takes hundreds of years in a usual setting. This is why PETase is so revolutionary. It can do this job in a matter of days and is extremely low-energy, while it can be produced in a lab setting. So, a triple win. Recommended:  Microplastics In Oceans: Is It Harming Us? Meet MHETase: The Partner In Crime Make that a quadruple win, now that a counterpart has been discovered. The PETase’s partner in crime has been given the equally catchy name MHETase, and when the two are combined, they provide even bigger benefits. By putting them together, the PET breakdown speed is doubled. Pretty good already, but if you go that extra mile and engineer a connection between the two, a so-called ‘super-enzyme’ is created that increases this speed threefold.   One of the lead scientists is Professor John McGeehan from the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth, who worked together with his colleague Dr. Gregg Beckham from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. As McGeehan explains, “ Gregg and I were chatting about how PETase attacks the surface of the plastics and MHETase chops things up further, so it seemed natural to see if we could use them together, mimicking what happens in nature." “Our first experiments showed that they did indeed work better together, so we decided to try to physically link them as two Pac-men joined by a piece of string. It took a great deal of work on both sides of the Atlantic. Still, it was worth the effort -- we were delighted to see that our new chimeric enzyme is up to three times faster than the naturally evolved separate enzymes, opening new avenues for further improvements." Cheers To The Enzyme Cocktail   The enzyme cocktail basically digests PET plastic and excrements its ‘building blocks,’ so to speak. These building blocks break down much faster and give rise to a cycle where plastic can be made and re-used in a never-ending loop. This could not just solve the plastic problem; it could also be a major cut in the use of gas and oil. That certainly sounds like something worth their effort. PETase enzymes break down PET molecules into monomeric building blocks. After the researchers’ original work with PETase was published, many heralded it as the next big thing in global plastic pollution while noting that it would not suffice in and of itself. PETase was not fast enough to offer commercial viability to the process. Now that the second enzyme has been added to speed things up, it seems like a major step toward becoming a real solution. Before you go! Recommended:  Solar Panel Recycling: Photovoltaics Rebirth Like to write your article about plastic waste? Send your writing & scribble with a photo to  [email protected] , and we will write an interesting article based on your input.
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