New super-enzyme eats plastic bottles six times faster

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Breakthrough that builds on plastic-eating bugs first discovered by Japan in 2016 promises to enable full recycling

A large pile of plastic bottles
Plastic bottles make up almost one sixth of the world’s annual plastic production. Photograph: Jeff Morgan/Alamy Stock Photo

A super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times 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 evolved 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 dumped 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 breathemicroplastic particles. It is currently very difficult to break…

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